What a Hoot!

Santa’s traditional yuletide greeting was somewhat overtaken at our house this festive season by the typical communication of a parliament of owls, selected from my treasured collection, to adorn our home on this occasion.

santa-ho-ho-hoil_570xN.201200330

Owls of different types, sizes, shapes and dispositions contributed to a unique cheerful and colourful display all over our bar.

10868033_10152563968756395_6868613759367394309_n

Not that Christmas 2014 was extraordinarily owlish, as my fond memories of Christmas past (in 2013) are of a tree so heavily overladen with owl decorations that it had to be provided with extra supports,

IMG_0078

a gift from Yvette of an “adopted” snowy owl from the World Wildlife Fund, companion to the barn owl she gave me the previous year,

IMG_0103

delicious owl cup cakes made and decorated by Cara,

IMG_0091 IMG_0094 IMG_0084

Davey showing off my pair of new cushions,

IMG_0088and my mother using an owl plate and mug for her afternoon tea.

IMG_0083

photo

It was wonderful to have my sister, Wilma, staying with us before Christmas  this time and the charming nativity scene which she made for me during her visit was certainly the highlight of the owl display and encapsulated the true spirit of Christmas.

DSC_0293

 

In the lead-up to Christmas, it was a lovely surprise to receive a beautiful bouquet from a friend and to find a delightful little owl peeking out among the vibrant red and white flowers.

 

 

IMG_0056

 

The College P&F Executive also indulged my love of owls, presenting me with a gift of this very striking metallic piece to add to my collection.

 

 

When Yvette arrived home for Christmas, she brought her Dr Hoot, twin of my very own Hooty.  Dr Hoot’s visit was not purely social, however, as in an incredible co-incidence, both Dr Hoot and Hooty required urgent repairs to their respective right eyes.

IMG_0044

 

Left: Hooty (owner: Marcia)

Dr Hoot

Right:
Dr Hoot
(owner: Yvette)

 

 

The outcome was a happy one with successful eye surgeries performed on both by Peter.

I am a true believer in Santa Claus, but to ensure I was not missed in the jolly old man’s distribution rounds, I faithfully left out not one, two or three, but four stockings to be filled.

IMG_0053  IMG_0099  IMG_0102

… and Santa did not disappoint me. “Owl I want for Christmas” and owls in abundance were certainly among the many great gifts I received.

IMG_0096

With Christmas over, the owlish activities did not cease. I could not go past the Boxing Day sale of these leftover Christmas items at an irresistible 75% off!

IMG_0079

IMG_0085

Another posIMG_0086t-Christmas purchase of an owl cookie cutter enabled me to make some sandwiches with a difference!

 

 

My New Year resolution has been made – and should be an easy one to keep!

l_4231d2a0-aa01-11e1-9853-0b2f72b00004

To all my family and friends, I wish you a “Hooty” New Year and may “owl” your wishes for 2015 come true!

Happy-New-Year-Owls-Clipart-10

Advertisements

High Drama in Anne Street

There was high drama in Anne St (Townsville) yesterday when my otherwise faithful Mazda 3 suddenly started leaking copious amounts of petrol.  I had just pulled into an off-street parking spot to collect my mail at the Aitkenvale post office when overpoweringly strong petrol fumes and the frantic antics of passers-by waving for me to exit the car immediately alerted me to the fact that something was clearly amiss.

IMG_0007

The fire brigade was called – and parked at a suitably safe distance from my Mazda.

IMG_0343  IMG_0344

 

The area was cordoned off with witches’ hats and a fire extinguisher was fetched in readiness while an assessment by the firies confirmed that the car was definitely not safe to drive.

IMG_0345  IMG_0342

 

We then all waited – some of us not so patiently in the midday Townsville heat – for the arrival of the RACQ tow truck.

IMG_0346  IMG_0348

IMG_0350  IMG_0351 IMG_0008 IMG_0009

 

High drama on Anne St – and a very lucky escape for Marcia!

The Singapore Experience

I arrived in Singapore to hot, humid weather – 32 degrees. This hazy view outside the window of my hotel room on the 11th floor reflects the polluted look in parts of the city, rather than my poor photography skills.

IMG_0375.JPG
The memories of my recent, brief Singapore experience fall roughly into three categories: tourist attractions, competitive architecture and high tea at Raffles.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
Given that Singapore caters so well for the tourist, it is difficult not to indulge and enjoy the many attractions. On my city tour, I visited the famous Merlion, the half lion, half fish creature, adopted specifically for marketing purposes by the Singapore Tourism Board,

IMG_0760.JPG
Chinese temples,

IMG_0755.JPG

IMG_0763.JPG
Botanic Gardens – and the impressive range of beautiful orchids,

IMG_0756.JPG

IMG_0770.JPG

IMG_0771.JPG
… and Museums.

IMG_0819.JPG

IMG_0368.JPG

IMG_0369.JPG
I took a night time trishaw ride through Chinatown and the main streets

IMG_0371.JPG

IMG_0370.JPG
… and a bum boat ride (named because previously the boats were so close they were literally “bum to bum” and people could step from one to the other).

IMG_0804.JPG

COMPETITIVE ARCHITECTURE
The architecture in Singapore is creative, compelling and highly competitive:

IMG_0809.JPG

IMG_0815.JPG

IMG_0813.JPG

IMG_0811.JPG

IMG_0820.JPG

IMG_0814.JPG

IMG_0782.JPG(tallest building).

HIGH TEA AT RAFFLES
Afternoon tea at Raffles Hotel was a memorable experience.

IMG_0797.JPG

IMG_0795.JPG
There were traditional cucumber sandwiches, assorted cakes and tea,

IMG_0785.JPG
with non-traditional pork buns and dim sims,

IMG_0791.JPG
Singapore Slings,
IMG_0786.JPG

IMG_0787.JPG
Indian punjabis,

IMG_0374.JPG
a harpist,

IMG_0376.JPG
white columns and golden chandeliers,

IMG_0799.JPG
and a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles.

IMG_0823.JPG

I love the Singapore orchids so much I just had to bring one home!

IMG_0832.JPG

All in all, a great holiday!

Three Fine Days in London

Last week, I had a short three-day stay in London on my way home.
I arrived in London earlier in the week on a surprisingly quiet day at Heathrow Airport.

IMG_0343.JPG
However, Gatwick Airport from where I left was extremely packed and noisy.

IMG_0354-0.JPG
I have enjoyed London immensely for various reasons.
Fraser Suites Queensgate was a delightful place to stay – staff were welcoming and accommodation quality was high.

IMG_0682.JPG

IMG_0683.JPG

IMG_0684.JPG

IMG_0681.JPG
The weather was beautiful – only the hint of rain one morning – and no need to use the room towel heater (except to dry some washing!)

IMG_0348.JPG
I found it fun to visit lots of the places on the Monopoly Game board, like
– the prestigious Park Lane

IMG_0352.JPG
– Piccadilly with its statue of Eros, the Greek God of Love (where ironically, the single men gather)

IMG_0349.JPG
– and Trafalgar Square where presently the giant blue cockerel on display is causing a bit of a controversy.

IMG_0351.JPG
My accommodation was in walking distance of Harrods where I spent a whole wonderful day – mainly in awe of the very up market displays and items, all way out of my price bracket

IMG_0362.JPG.
There were
– Impressive food displays of chocolates ready for Halloween, fruit hampers and mouth-watering cakes;

IMG_0724.JPG

IMG_0718.JPG

IMG_0721.JPG
– Big bears gracing doorways and looking after littler bears;

IMG_0717.JPG

IMG_0719.JPG
– A Nanodot model of Harrods and a Lego display of the Green Man security guard;

IMG_0723.JPG

IMG_0722.JPG
– A Salvador Dali art gallery;

IMG_0720.JPG
– And a memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed, whose father is Harrods’ owner

IMG_0363.JPG.
Also within walking distance of my accommodation was
– the Royal Albert Hall

IMG_0345.JPG

IMG_0687.JPG
– the Victoria and Albert Museum

IMG_0732.JPG

IMG_0738.JPG

IMG_0733.JPG

IMG_0737.JPG
– and Kensington Gardens.

IMG_0364.JPG
Like all tourists to London, I watched the changing of the guards,

IMG_0692.JPG

IMG_0713.JPG

IMG_0703.JPG

IMG_0690.JPG
– visited the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels

IMG_0696.JPG
– and checked that London Bridge was not actually falling down.

IMG_0689.JPG
It was a great couple of days, especially when on 24th September, I received a beautiful bunch of red roses for my wedding anniversary.

IMG_0725.JPG

Things I Love about Ireland

THE CULTURE
– the street entertainment

IMG_0341.JPG

IMG_0662.JPG

IMG_0663.JPG

IMG_0650.JPG
– and the street art

IMG_0660.JPG

IMG_0670.JPG

THE HISTORY
This is the famous Blarney castle where you go to kiss the Blarney Stone.

IMG_0652.JPG
The Book of Kells is a 9th century manuscript intricately and elaborately illustrated. Even with a pre-paid ticket, the queues for entry can be very long and frustrating, but it is well worth the wait.

IMG_0325.JPG

IMG_0635.JPG

IMG_0638.JPG
The Rock of Cashel is a renowned ruin in County Tipperary, currently undergoing restoration. (As I grappled with the Irish accent of the bus tour guide, I was convinced that we were going to visit the “rocket castle”!)

IMG_0656.JPG

IMG_0651.JPG

THE MERCY STORY
The Mercy pilgrimage took place, for the most part, at Mercy International Centre, a house in Baggot Street built by founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley in the 1800s, when she inherited £36,000 (equivalent to about €3 million today). It is in a very prestigious area of Dublin and close to the business district.

IMG_0322.JPG

IMG_0323.JPG
The International Room at Mercy International Centre has this plaque of Australia on the wall in recognition of the outreach of the work of the Sisters of Mercy in Australia.

IMG_0539.JPG
The chapel at Mercy International Centre is spacious and distinctive. We were fortunate to have a music teacher among the partners of one of pilgrimage participants. Tricia brought the chapel alive with her beautiful playing of the organ at our gatherings there.

IMG_0297.JPG

IMG_0324.JPG

As displays were being prepared for the 20th anniversary of Mercy International Centre on 24th September, some of our sessions were moved around the corner to the offices of the Mercy International Association. Visitors to this location are greeted by this lovely piece in the reception foyer.

IMG_0319.JPG

IMG_0542.JPG

THE SHOPPING

The St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre is a shopper’s landmark in Dublin. Not only are there some lovely little boutique shops in the centre, the complex is also at the top of Grafton Street, which is a popular shopping mall. The centre is not actually green – it is named after the nearby gardens, St Stephen’s Green.

IMG_0320.JPG
The Sunday I planned to go shopping at Connelly Street was the day of the Kerry-Donegal Football Final, and the street was packed with crowds on their way to the match. Needless to say, I didn’t get off the Hop On Hop Off bus at that stop, but just took this photo from the top of the double decker bus.

IMG_0665.JPG
It would have been an interesting match to watch – and follow – because Kerry’s colours are green with gold and Donegal’s colours are gold with green. It must be an Irish coincidence!

IMG_0673.JPG

THE FOOD VENUES

Voila is my favourite little French patisserie in Dublin – the fact that it is always packed speaks for itself. Miam, miam – as the French would say!

IMG_0321.JPG

IMG_0331.JPG
When I visited Cork, I lunched at this delightful little cafe in one of the side alley streets – a nice alternative to the pubs of Dublin!

IMG_0643.JPG
Dublin pubs where I dined were The Dubliner, The Arlington, The Brazen Head and The Waterloo.

IMG_0336.JPG

IMG_0340.JPG

IMG_0302.JPG

IMG_0338.JPG
On my way to the shops, I happened to pass O’Reilly’s Whisky Bar which has a bodhran and violin as one of the window displays. I am reminded of Yvette and Dion when they played in the Celtic Strings Band at secondary school.

IMG_0614.JPG

THE COUNTRY LIFE

IMG_0640.JPG

IMG_0657.JPG

IMG_0658.JPG

THE UNEXPECTED

Did you know that Halloween is an Irish pagan event introduced into the USA by Irish immigrants? The children of Dublin are preparing already for “trick or treat”.

IMG_0645.JPG

Contrary to the song lyrics, it’s actually not a long way to Tipperary – at least, not from Dublin. I travelled from Dublin through Tipperary to Cork and back again in a day; however, it was a full day, leaving before 7am and arriving back well after 7pm.

IMG_0333.JPG

IMG_0342.JPG

A Mercy School Visit

I was delighted to return to the area of Coolock on Wednesday for a visit to Mercy College, built on the grounds of Coolock House, the house where Catherine McAuley spent much of her early adult life and the convent where the sisters now reside.

IMG_0537.JPG
A colleague, who is Principal of Our Lady of Mercy College in Cronulla, Sydney, two others on the pilgrimage who work in child protection ministries in Brisbane, and I were collected and hosted by a spritely Sr Moira, former Principal of the College and current Chair of the school Management Board.

Mercy College is a secondary girls’ college, whose motto is “academic achievement balanced with care of the individual”.

IMG_0315.PNG
Just inside the school reception was an impressive display shelf showcasing the pottery work of students for their major assessment.

IMG_0611.JPG

IMG_0612.JPG We were warmly greeted on arrival by the present Principal, Patricia and the Deputy, Donal, and given a tour of the College by the Head Girl and 2 other Seniors.

Our tour included a visit to classrooms where Art, History, Biology, Music, Upper level Maths, Spanish, Gaelic (compulsory) and Sport were being taught. The students were truly delightful and thought our accents were “cute”.

IMG_0618.JPG

IMG_0605.JPG

IMG_0601.JPG

IMG_0607.JPG In a passageway was this piece of student artwork that I couldn’t resist photographing.

IMG_0608.JPG The library was surprisingly small and contained a couple of iMacs.

IMG_0609.JPG

IMG_0610.JPG Mercy College celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and we were presented with a commemorative candle and newsletter about the occasion.

IMG_0314.JPGI left some St Patrick’s College pens and several copies of our 2013 Yearbook. As he leafed through the yearbook, the Deputy seemed amused by photos showing “so much sunshine”!

We finished our visit with a hospitable cup of tea in the staff room where we were introduced to a number of teachers.

IMG_0290.JPG

A Collection of Irish Tidbits

1. While I haven’t had a lot of time to go shopping, I managed to find this delightful piece of Celtic jewellery.

IMG_0564.JPG
2. The Irish believe that it is not important in which direction you travel, so long as you get the elusive parking space.

IMG_0289.JPG
3. As part of the Pilgrimage, we visited Coolock House, the home where Catherine McAuley lived with the Callaghan family. The interior of the house has been renovated and the contemporary wooden look in the chapel is magnificent and impressive.

IMG_0298.JPG

IMG_0301.JPG

IMG_0300.JPG
Most of the original furniture from Coolock House was moved to the House of Mercy at Baggot Street.

IMG_0497.JPG
4. At the Mespil Hotel where I am staying, there are regular Trafalgar tour guests. I am amused by the replacement of the traditional red of the Trafalgar bus with a rainbow coloured logo. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem quite right!

IMG_0528.JPG
5. Individuality in Dublin finds expression in the colour and design of one’s door and dare I say, the size and shape of one’s knocker!

IMG_0563.JPG
6. I attended a traditional mass in Irish on Sunday and of course, could not understand a word, which made the homily a challenging experience.

IMG_0296.JPG

IMG_0573.JPG
7. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Dublin, established in the 12th century. I spent a great night there listening to a story teller recounting tales about folklore and fairies (and leprechauns), enjoying the songs of the two man band and eating a hearty Irish stew.

IMG_0302.JPG

IMG_0303.JPG

IMG_0304.JPG

A Good Cup of Tea

As many of you reading this will already know, on 18th September, my sister, Wilma, will be officially opening her exhibition entitled “Leaves of Distinction”, inspired by her love of drinking tea and reading poetry about tea.

IMG_0291.JPG
As I am on sabbatical in Ireland at the moment, I will, unfortunately, be unable to join her in Newcastle to celebrate this special occasion. There are over 40 pieces of work and I am sure it will be a huge success. I love the little dolls in the sacred seven cups of tea, as shown in the photo below. Congratulations, Wilma, and all the best for the opening!

IMG_0292.JPG
The last time I was in Newcastle was several years ago for the celebration of Wilma’s 60th birthday. Here we are drinking tea!

DSC08523.jpg
I am presently participating in a Mercy Pilgrimage in Dublin and surrounding areas, retracing the steps of Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy in the 1830s. It is very fitting, therefore, for me to share a story about Catherine and tea, and the lasting legacy of this.

IMG_0294.JPG
When Catherine McAuley was dying, many of the sisters gathered around her bedside to say good-bye, waiting and praying. In her last moments, Catherine said to one of the sisters: “Be sure you have a good cup of tea for them when I am gone.” Ever since, the good cup of tea has been a symbol for hospitality, one of the core values of the Mercy ethos. Each year, Mercy organizations throughout the world conduct an international “Good Cup of Tea” event, to keep the Mercy spirit of Catherine alive today.

IMG_0293.JPG
The cups and saucers shown in this display are ones Catherine used herself, when she lived just outside Dublin at Coolock House.

IMG_0534.JPG
Knowing that my sister likes yellow roses, I’ll finish off this post with a special photo. Today, while walking in the garden at Mercy International Centre, I noticed the Catherine McAuley rose resplendent in full bloom.

IMG_0540.JPG

A Celtic Night

I thoroughly enjoyed an entertaining night of traditional Celtic performing arts in downtown Dublin.

IMG_0287.PNG
The musicians were very talented, and I was reminded of Yvette, Dion and my mother as the band included a violinist, a bodhran player and a piano accordionist. The bodhran player was said to be a world champion, but while he was good, I suspect this was an example of Irish blarney.

IMG_0283.JPG

IMG_0281.JPG

IMG_0282.JPG
As a former tap dancer, I always find Celtic dancing wonderful and the dancers performed well, especially the boys, given that they were on a very small stage with a low roof.

IMG_0286.JPG

IMG_0284.JPG
It was a dinner show, although the food on this night was obviously not the draw card. Those who had the Irish Stew or the Beef and Guinness rated it average, while the roast pork meal I had was wholesome but nothing special. I did, however, enjoy the assortments for dessert – chocolate and Guinness mousse, lemon curd tart and strawberry fool (similar to a trifle).

IMG_0513.JPG