Here Comes Santa Claus

Santa Claus comes to town every Christmas, usually about a month before Christmas, with his jolly Ho, Ho, Ho, he frightens the daylights out of the very little ones and pleases the older child by listening and promising to bring the favorite gift.

But where did he come from?  How did he come to be not only a part of, but sometimes the main show at Christmas. If you said from The Night Before Christmas Story, you would be partially right.  In the famous poem the author mentions Saint Nicholas but, as the story went around the world and advertising began drawing images of the more or less mythical person described, the name Santa for Saint and Claus for Nicholas evolved.

Saint Nicholas was a real person who live centuries ago in what is now the country of Turkey.  His parents were wealthy and they took him for a trip around the world while he was quite young. The trip impressed him as he saw that many people suffered in poverty with few to help.  Shortly after the trip he was orphaned and was left with quite a bit of money.  It was then he began helping the poor.  He gave gifts in secret, he was wise beyond his years and became a priest at age 18.  In his 20’s  he became an archbishop, doing many wondrous works.  He was a Christ follower and a man of much prayer and fasting. He gave so much that soon his benevolence could no longer be kept a secret.  The most famous story is that of him secretly putting dowry money into the hanging stockings of three daughters of a once wealthy man who lost all he had. This father was beside himself not knowing what to do and decided he had to sell his daughters into slavery, then the money was provided and the girls were able to marry.  He was so grateful, he realized that he had committed a grave sin and asked forgiveness of God and became a believer.  Santa is a giver of gifts, he encourages children to, say their prayers and be good.  He spreads good will and cheer to all. In a way he emulates St Nicholas and I love to tell children and others that Santa is real, in the person of St Nicholas.

Before the popularity of this poem there was never a mention of Santa, gifts or St Nick, and if it wasn’t for this ancient man of God perhaps there never would have been a Santa.

Santa Claus comes to us on the eve of Christmas when the wondrous truth of Christmas unfolds. His eight tiny reindeer were also named in the original poem that was titled “A visit from St Nick. The poem was written in the early 1800’s.

 

.Do you recognize the “most famous reindeer of all?”

This shy little deer came along about a century later when cowboy, Gene Autry recorded the song that became a hit and remains popular today.  Rudolf, it seems, was born with this terrible shiny nose that kept him out of the loop with the other reindeer, until Santa rescued him by turning his shame into something beautiful to help guide the sleigh on a foggy night.  He became the leader and has continued to be hailed as a loved one because he made himself useful to Santa and the others.

I like this story because it reminds of us of what God can do for us. There is a very short and not often told story in the Bible that is much like this story of Rudolph. It’s actually almost hidden in I Chronicles chapter 4, verses 9 and 10. These two verses are all the Bible says about Jabez, the honorable brother, who, because his mother suffered loss or hurt before his birth, she named him Jabez which literally means “you will cause Pain.”  Because he was more honorable than his brothers we can assume that his brothers did not treat him so well, since he was born with this “curse” over him.  He obviously did not want to cause pain to others, and called out to the Lord asking God to bless him and help him not cause pain. He also prayed to be delivered from the evil one and asked if God would help him, help others by enlarging his territory. And do you know what happened?  “God granted his request.”  This story reminded me so much of the Rudolph story that I was able to write a song to the tune of Rudolph that tells the Jabez story.

Now you can go to this YouTube link and sing along as I got some of my young friends to help me sing it.  Go ahead sing it, It’s kind of fun, and remember we all suffer from things that happen to us over which we have no control.  As this season of Christmas comes to a close take a tip from Jabez and ask God to take away your burden and turn it into something good.

 

Preview YouTube video Jabez

Today, January 6th, is the day we celebrate the wise men reaching their destination, the season of Christmas is officially over, the New Year has begun and tomorrow, my tree comes down. May you know God’s blessings in 2019.
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Epiphany – the climax of the celebrations of Christmas

At one time Epiphany was celebrated as the beginning of the New Year, but today it denotes the end of the Christmas holiday season. On our calendar it falls on January 6th, the last day of the 12 days of Christmas.The word epiphany is defined as “an intuitive grasp of reality, usually through something simple, and striking, as an illuminating discovery.”  So it means to reveal or to show.

When the wise men completed their journey and located Jesus, an epiphany occurred. It is believed that by not going back to the king, after seeing Jesus, it was revealed to them that He was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one, the King and Savior of humanity.  In short, they recognized who Jesus was and is, and it changed their way of thinking and their path for life.  The story is found in the second chapter of Matthew and it tells us that after they saw the Christ Child they departed and went home a different way.  Because of this, at one time, it was the hope of a priest of the early church that Epiphany should be the celebrated Christian holiday rather than Christmas. We teach that everyone who is to become a Christian have this epiphany moment when they realize who Jesus is and accept Him as the One promised by God to save us from our sins. The thinking of this priest was that this epiphany moment in a persons life was more important than to celebrate the birth of the baby Savior, and in fact Epiphany Sunday is recognized and/or celebrated in many churches today.  This year it happens to fall of a Sunday.

Contrary to popular Nativity scenes the wise men did not appear until a year or two after the fact of Christ’s birth, but they are often placed in the same context as the shepherds worshiping Jesus.

My daughter came up with a solution to this problem.  She removes the wise men from the manger scene and puts them in a different part of the room.  As January 6th draws near, she moves the wise men closer to the manger scene.

So her nativity might look like this, until January 6th which is the day the arrival of the wise men is celebrated.

These men, whose journey began somewhere in Persia arrived at a house where Mary and Joseph were staying until they were told by an angel to take the baby and flee to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod.

The wise men are an important part of the Christmas story, they worshiped Him and brought Him gifts. We exchange and give gifts today in honor of these first gifts given to our Savior.

All of the things we have looked at in these blogs reveal the true meaning of Christmas. We celebrate the fact that Jesus was born, came to earth through the womb of a virgin woman, leaving behind the glories of heaven to bring us out from under Satan’s rule and into a peace that passes all understanding.

And so the Christmas season ends and a New Year begins. I wish for all my readers a very happy and healthy new year and may your life honor the One whose birth we celebrate in the Season of Christmas, and may you recognize who Jesus is.

There is one aspect of Christmas that I have neglected to mention in these blogs.  But that is for another day, hopefully before the season of Christmas ends.

Where did he come from??  Tune in next time.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Celebration of Christmas is still going on

It’s nice to know that after the hustle and bustle of preparing for Christmas intermixed with the Sundays where we are expectantly waiting with joy of anticipation, that after the big day—- it’s not over.  In the 12 days following Christmas day we have time to reflect and give thanks each day for a particular gift that God has given us.  I am speaking of the 12 days of Christmas, but not necessarily of geese-a-laying or maids-a-milking.  Today we teach our children the ABC’s with things like A is apple, b for banana and c is for cat.  It is referred to as memorization by association.  Many years ago the Catholic Church taught their children and new converts a way to remember and give thanks to God for the gifts of the tenements of the faith of Christianity. Some even say it was a secret code as the church was enduring persecution.

What we know today as the song of The Twelve Days of Christmas was once a poem, and the poem became a song which without explanation became a silly song of a lover bestowing lavish gifts on his loved one.  I have even heard of some who have added up the cost of all the gifts mentioned and it was astronomical.  However this isn’t far off from the truth of the meaning of the song.

The True Love is speaking of God the Father of the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The partridge in the pear tree is Jesus the Son of God. The partridge is a ground bird who will cover her young and die to protect them.  A good picture of Jesus who covered our sin by dying for us on a tree.

Two turtle doves speaks of the two testaments of God’s Word, the Bible. The Old and The New tell us of God’s plan and is there for all who will read and believe.  Turtle doves were used by the poor as a sacrifice when they could not afford a lamb.

Three French Hens were used to describe the three virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love, taught in I Corinthians ch 13.  French hens are said to be a very quiet, gentle and friendly hen.

Four calling birds are the four gospels calling out the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Five Golden Rings are the first five foundational books of the Bible, known as the five books of the Torah.  These books give the history of humanity’s sinful nature and of God’s response of grace to create a people who would bring forth a light to the world.

Six geese a-laying speak of the six days of creation, each egg representing a day that something new was made by the Creator and Sustainer of the world.

Seven swans a-swimming are the seven gifts of the Spirit found in II Cor 12:8-11 and Romans 12:6-6, an appropriate symbol for these gifts of grace as swans are considered among the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth.

Eight maids-a-milking refers to Christ coming to serve the lost and the least as milk maids in the day this would have been written as a code, milk maids was the lowest of jobs to be had. Eight beatitudes give blessing to those in need listed in Matthew 5:3-10

Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. Dancing denotes joy as does a life that produces these fruits from the Holy Spirit.

Ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments.  In the day of Lords and servants, the lord was the judge and jury not always dealing justly.  The ten commandments give a clear understanding of right and wrong.

Eleven Pipers piping refer to the eleven faithful apostles, the disciples who followed Jesus after His death and resurrection. The twelfth apostle stopped following Christ just before His death.

Twelve drummers drumming are the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s creed which is repeated over and over like drumming these points into our being.

Using these phrases you can sing This version of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  Try it, you’ll like it. There are several other versions like the Polish dinner, and the Hawaiian version, but this is version is the true meaning of the Twelve days and I for one think it should be sung as well.

This is the third celebration of Christmas, there is one more and I will post it before the end of the twelve days of Christmas. In the meantime thank God for the designated gift each of the twelve days.

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Tis the Season

The holiday season is normally thought to begin at Thanksgiving and concludes with New years, with Christmas in between.  Christmas to many means Christmas Eve and Christmas day with many previous days being devoted to shopping for gifts and preparing food. It’s during these days that we wish each other “Happy Holidays.”   I would like to suggest that Christmas is much more than another holiday crunched in between two others.  In fact I would say that Christmas is a season in and of itself, and Jesus is the reason for that season.   Christmas is a time of joy and celebration and actually there are four celebrations during the Christmas Season and the reason we say “Merry Christmas.”  Advent is the first of the four celebrations of Christmas.  Advent refers to the promise of coming, not only to the first coming of Jesus as a babe in a manger, but also to the promise of His second coming as the Mighty King. Advent begins the fourth week before Christmas Sunday, usually the last Sunday of November or as happened this year the first Sunday of December.   This first Sunday focuses on the promise and hope of His coming. “Come thou Long Expected Jesus” is a hymn often sung on this day.  As He was expected when He came the first time, He is expected to fulfill the promise of His second coming. The second Sunday is that of preparation, a need to prepare our hearts and minds to receive His gift of redemption and contemplate the meaning of this to each person who will receive it.  The third Sunday is that of rejoicing over this great gift and the fact that He came, leaving heaven to come and live as a man among men to show human kind the truth about God. The fourth Sunday focuses on love and adoration of the Savior of all who will accept Him.  The advent wreath features four candles in a circle, one lit for each Sunday, with a fifth candle in the middle lit on Christmas eve to signify the birth of the Christ Child.

There are many versions of the advent wreath, this one features the Nativity which is why I like it.

All of this leads up to the second celebration of Christmas which is the eve and the day of Christmas. The night before Christmas is celebrated with family gatherings.  When there is no one present except family a selfie saves the day, and when one family member is missing due to being in a different state, a face time phone call is just the ticket.

After dinner, a Christ mass which is the way Christmas was originally celebrated, or a Christmas Eve candle lighting worship service is enjoyed.

At home the tree is a delight and a wonder to the little ones.

And the gifts are waiting to bring delight and joy to everyone.

Christmas day for us is a flurry of visiting others and having guests in the evening. All surprises and secrets are revealed and the tree is devoid of the beauty of the wrapped presents, and the silence of Christmas night is upon us.

There are two more celebrations of Christmas, but that is for another day.  Join me in the next couple of days for more of Christmas.

This one can’t wait to get his hands on the star cookie, an addition to the usual “Grandma cookies.”

 

 

 

 

 

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The Ways we celebrate fall

Its November first and the season we have been waiting for has finally arrived.  Fall is here, and the leaves are now starting to change color.  We have had much rain in south central Pennsylvania in the recent months of late summer and early fall.  The change of seasons has been slow coming, but as I look back over the past two months I realize we have been celebrating fall in several ways.

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In September the sisters met at the cabin and made crafty fall creations.

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“Hello Fall” is now decorating our houses even though the grass still needed to be mowed the days were warm and rainy and the leaves were green and remained on the trees.

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In October we made apple butter in the huge copper kettle with family members and friends of all ages participating.  It was a warm, sunny, lovely day, enjoyed by about 80 people who shared the 88 quarts of the warm fresh sauce that will be eaten on toast, biscuits or warm baked bread all winter long.

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But today it looks like fall!  The maple tree has shed some of its leaves and the others are turning the colors of fall.

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The ones on the ground show even more color.  I really like the shades of purple in this display of nature’s art.

With November upon us we are planning for and waiting for the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.  And in my recent travels I happened to spy this guy, which set my plans in motion.

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Happy Fall everyone, it may be short, the winter celebrations are nudging us.

 

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High School Reunion Day

Celebrating a high school reunion provided a day filled with memories, friends and education. Even though this was a 55th class reunion, we are still learning.  Our day began at the Gettysburg visitor center, meeting and greeting and then to watch a Civil War film.  This day spent recalling Gettysburg history was very fitting since our class of 1963 was the centenial celebration of the 1863 war on the first three days of July of that year.

Later we viewed the Cyclorama painting of Pickets Charge.  I remembered seeing this painting in high school, but with a couple of million dollar refirbish job it looked brand new.  The thing that stuck in my head when viewing the painting years ago was that the artist did a self portrait of himself in the painting, instead of a signature. After the presentation that did not mention this, I asked one of the guides. He showed me where it was.  Dressed as a union soldier the Frenchman was standing against a tree holding an open sword across his knee.  Everyone around him was engaged in battle, he however, was just standing there as though he was an observer, which, I guess he was.

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Our next stop was the Dwight D Eisenhower farm.  It was a beautiful day and the first one we had in a couple of weeks, so it was a treat to be out and about.

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But first a peek inside at the home where the Eisenhowers lived in the 1960’s. The formal living room showcased gifts the Eisenhowers received from friends and heads of state all over the world.  I liked this unusal couch like piece of furniture that, we were told, Mamie liked as well.  Ike, as he was called considered the room to stuffy and preferred to spend time on the porch where he enjoyed painting.

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It was lovely outside and we walked the path where Ike liked to walk with his friends and every one that he invited to the farm.

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In the showbarn we saw pictures of Winston Churchhill and Charles DeGaul in the same place where we were standing.

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He was quite a golfer and had a putting green in his back yard.  The flag is that of a Four Star General.  We learned that one of our class mates was a caddie for the President on occassion when he golfed at the Gettysburg Country Club.

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We walked past the stables and googled eyed the old classic cars in the garage.  Among the golf carts and other classics was his presidential limosine Imperial.

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That evening we had dinner at the Dobbin House and a brunch on Sunday when our foriegn exchange student from Guatamala attended.

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She brought along a scrap book from her year in Gettysburg.  This picture of prom attendants was reinacted as both of them were at the brunch.

It was a great weekend.  I love our class reunions, I think the only one I missed was the 5th reunion as I was still out of town.  Now 55 has come and gone.  “How are you?”  Was a frequently asked question. The answer I liked the best was “I’m upright and thankful to be so.”  Yes! Yes I am.

 

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24 hours in Northern Pennsylvania

At the tail end of our short trip to New York, we drove into Pennsylvania and stopped to see our friends in the small town of Canton.   We spent exactly 24 hours there and what a day it was.  We visited on the back porch of their beautiful stone home, ate three delicious meals, and played the concentration game of Sequence.

The rain started soon after our arrival, but our hosts were undaunted.  What to do in the rain?? Take a 3 hour tour in the new truck and see the sites these mountains had to offer.

We enjoyed seeing the deer that were out in large numbers. We saw doe, lots of twin fawns and buck. This bunch didn’t mind as we stopped and watched them graze and the young ones were darting from place to place and practicing their high jumps.  Quite entertaining, actually.  The one in the middle of this picture is just beginning a take off. We also saw a flock of wild turkey and had our eyes pealed for the elusive bear.

The clouds, the mountains, the grasslands and the farms presented a picturesque sight as we traveled over hill and dale. Note the old church on the left side of the picture.

I had to have a close up of it. I love the windows and wonder at the two door entrance.  As I ponder this picture I think of the music that might have been sung here, the sermons preached, the friendships made and lunches held,  bringing a community together in fellowship with God.

We saw a lot of farm land given up for the placement of these wind turbines.  After all was said and done the additions did not spoil the beauty of the land even if the farming was put on the back shelf.

This view from a mountain top made us wish for a sunny day, but I think you can get the picture.

At this lookout we met a very tall and imposing Indian Chief of days gone by.

And the next day it rained, we took another 3 hour tour that showed us recent tornado damage, and took us to an ice cream shop that sold many kinds of popcorn as well.  At this place you could taste all the different kinds of pop corn before buying the one or two of your choice.  The flavors were wide and varied, I tasted a few but settled on my favorite caramel corn. Provided good munchies for the trip home.

Did I mention there were goats??  Lots of grazing goats.

We said our goodbyes right after lunch, just 24 hours since we had arrived, and began our three hour drive home. We drove home in the rain, and came home to days and days of heavy rain.

It was too long since our last trip to Canton and this one was too short, but we made the best of the time we had and packed a lot of fun times into that day long get away.

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Dreaming of New York, New York

A four day get-away to New York with my husband was one of the three short vacations our summer had to offer this year. After a long trip to Ireland without him, it was good to do this short trip together and to do something he really was looking forward to.  Our New York trip did not include the city of New York, we were headed to the salmon fishing capital of the east, Pulaski, New York.  From our home in Pennsylvania it is listed as a 5 hour drive.  We made it happen in 8, driving leisurely with a couple of food and rest stops. My husband and son are planning a fishing trip here in September, but in July we were just enjoying the beauty and checking out the places he remembered when he fished year about 5 years ago.  Pulaski has a couple of fish and tackle shops, but Fat Nancy’s has the best location as it is right off the highway as you come into the town. Dick was anxious to introduce me the shops name sake, a fish called, not Wanda but ——- Fat Nancy.   And there she is in all her glory.

That evening we stayed close to town and walked around some of the local fishing spots, had dinner at a near by restaurant and found a place to relax.

The next day we made a wide circle and stopped at numerous places he remembered.  One where he had his first bite and another where he caught his first salmon. In July the water is high, the sun is out and the scenery is lush and green.

We walked along paths beside rivers and he showed me where 5 years ago a parking lot was flooded during the fishing season and they were actually catching salmon in the lot.

We cut through a path in the woods to get to the river.

Erosion taking its toll, so visible I walked past some of the trees a little faster than usual.

I do not think that this tree is going to last another five years.

Later we walked to a water fall and enjoyed the beauty there.

There were steps involved in this walk.

This is my kind of hiking, a nice flat path with shady spots along the way, so appreciated on a warm summer day.

 

The beauty seemed to never end.

By the end of that couple of days, he was dreaming of September with a fishing rod in his hand.

Come September, he will be ready to show his son all the good spots. I even got excited for them. Here’s wishing them  a  successful fishing trip when the salmon are running.

 

 

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The Giant’s Causeway

My first trip to Ireland included a short trip across the northern border to the Belleek pottery factory where I purchased a small vase that looks similar to the one on the left, that I took a picture of in Dublin on this trip.  In 2006 we entered Northern Ireland just north of Sligo and did not see much more than the factory had to offer.

I wanted to change that on this trip, so we left Doolin and headed for a different country, well almost.  We were looking for the border which we knew to be open, but still had our eyes peeled for any changes that might occur.  We only saw one large sign that said, “Money changes here.”  Our first stop across the border was in Armagh, the place where my Irish family came from, and our first activity was to find an ATM where in fact we could change some money. Since it was raining and way past lunch, I snapped a picture or two as we hurried into a coffee shop for a much needed break from a long drive. We enjoyed the play on words. The word craic in Ireland means to have a good time. It is pronounced like the English word crack. A display of pictures featured Bono and the U2 group.

Eventually we found our cute little Irish cottage and settled in for the night.

Our destination in the morning was “The Giant’s Causeway.”  I had heard and read about it and was looking forward to this one full day we got to spend in Northern Ireland.

The story goes that in centuries past, a race of feuding giants inhabited this northern land and built a causeway between two islands. During one of the fights a giant, being afraid of his opponent ran back to his island destroying the bridge  on the way.  In the large visitors center there is a ‘giant’ screen video that tells the fabled story and also gives a scientific explanation of the phenomenal columns of stone that still stand today, which actually doesn’t seem real feasible to me either.

It truly is an amazing sight and fun to climb on as well. There are several walking paths along the coast line to enjoy.

Some were higher than others.

I took a low path on the way back and saw the ‘camel’ the winning giant supposedly rode home. I hope you can spot him. There are several fun things about the giant on the trails, how tall, the shoe size etc.

The one other thing I wanted to do that day was to walk across the Carrick-A-Rede swinging rope bridge. It sounded like a lot fun and the pictures were breathtaking.

I really wanted to do this!  Or did I?  I admit I was a bit nervous going over where you got to view another island,

but coming back I was on my game and even wishing the bridge were a bit longer.

For over 350 years, fishermen have strung a rope bridge 30 meters above the sea to allow them access to the best places to catch the migrating salmon.  This day it was my turn to take the challenge and enjoy the same views and high thrills of those fishermen long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toolin ’round Doolin

The little town of Doolin was one of my favorite spots in Ireland.  I’m not sure what took it to that level of favorites, but it might have been because I spent a day there on down time.  I wrote in my journal, took a long walk, got some pictures and sat in a little bake shop eating a brownie and visiting with some locals. That morning it was raining in Doolin, and it was windy. The original plan for the day was to take a boat ride to one of the Aran Islands, and get a view of the Cliffs of Moher from the bottom looking up on the way back.  It sounded fun during the planning, but today I just could not manage an open boat ride on a rainy, windy day. The others wanted to go and I sent them on their way with my blessing.  I found myself a warm comfy chair and caught up with my journal at about 11:30.  After a big stretch I was ready to explore the town to see what it had to offer in the way of pictures. The rain had stopped.

This is what greeted me as I stepped out from our bed and breakfast complex.

Next came stone walls and my donkey friend.

By the time I got into town, my phone had lost it’s charge from all the texting I did to family back home.  This, of course happened without my notice. So I went into a little bakery and spied some brownies. I began talking to the gal behind the counter and mentioned that I had been out walking and my phone was dead. She said “sit down and enjoy your brownie, I will charge it in the office, we have a cord.”  While sitting she gave me an Irish newspaper and a glass of water. That is how I spent the next half hour, phone charged to a decent level, caught up on the news of the day and I was back on the beat looking for photo opts.

They were on every corner.

I loved this little pink house with a thatched roof from a distance, and was excited to find out that it was a shop and I could actually go inside and have a look around.  It kind of looked like a doll house to me, very cute inside as well.

That evening, we enjoyed dinner and music at O’Conners famous pub.  The food was fabulous and the music, hand clapping fun.

The next day we had to leave Doolin, but not before I got a picture of this artists interpretation of a famous ancient burial ground that was hanging in the hallway of our b&b. We had seen it in our travel brochures and now wanted to see the real thing.

The Poulnabrone dolmen is a precarious set up of large stones, and offers many different photo options. It is located in the Burren National park.

For someone with a photographer’s eye, it is a work of art, standing thus for thousands of years. This was my best shot.

These are the stones that surround the site, making the eerie looking patterns on the painting.

We met a young man in town who told us he had never been out of Doolin, even though it was a favorite, I had no problem moving on.  I hope some day he will get to move on as well.

Leaving Doolin was saying goodbye to a fast made friend, only to find new places and things to see in a whole different country, Northern Ireland! Join me there next time.  I was told the boat ride was wet and rocky.  Glad I stayed behind and made a friend.

 

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