In Which My Big Guy Makes His Dream Come True  

Posted by Heidi

My Big Guy wrote a book.  I helped with editing (most authors need help with that) but the ideas, vocabulary and most of the sentence structures are all his.  It was a lot of work.  Not as much work as writing a 70,000 word novel, of course.  However, I was a little bit amazed at how similar his journey was to mine, from the stand point of how an idea starts out as a story and becomes something you can hold in your hand. 

His copy came in the mail yesterday.  I was gone when it happened and came home to find a cardboard box that looked like it was opened by a set of Big Guy teeth.  And there's the irony; he doesn't have the dexterity to open a sealed box or cut it open with scissors--but he can get one open with his teeth.  That's just something I could never hope to accomplish.   

I can hope to love as unconditionally as he does.

With Vanilla, the cutest ever cockapoo.  She sleeps next to his bed each night and wakes him up every morning with a lick on his hand.

He is sometimes hopelessly clueless but I like to think of it as naively optimistic.

He appreciates the little things.  And he has a keen sense of humor.

His book is short--it has lots of pictures and its few words are displayed in large print--and it is a far cry from "greatness"  It will never win an award or even be read by many.  However, if you want to be inspired by someone who accomplished something in spite of how greatly the odds were stacked against him (school was such a disaster for him that he still insists that he can't read, even though he most certainly CAN) this one makes a good bedtime read for the kiddos. 

Learn more about the Big Guy in the sidebar under The Big Guy, A Continuing Saga, as well as, Other Big Guy Posts, especially this one HERE. 

Belfast Ireland The Titanic Museum and Queen's College  

Posted by Heidi

Lunch in Ireland was very often ice cream or gelato.  I am not certain that it really is better in Ireland than in the U.S., but it tasted better at the time.  There was always a grand selection.  This particular eatery was an American style burger joint and I confess to feeling quite ready for that on our second to last day away from home.

This plaque was found outside of Belfast City Hall.  I love all of the symbolism, particularly the child with one arm wrapped around his mother's neck and the other wrapped around a ship.  Shipping, of course, is very important to the economy of Belfast.

 Here is the child, again, with the boat.  So cute.  I am guessing that whatever the other child held is long gone.

A beautiful building in Belfast that houses a theater.  I would go see just about anything in that.

Queen's College in Belfast.  I would give my eye teeth for that truck to have been gone when we were there. 

It has been eight months since I was here.  I probably forgot the significance of this statue and plaque at least two months ago.  I should have blogged all of these pics much sooner:  lesson learned.

On the grounds of Queen's College. 
This is not my photo.  I can't say why I didn't take a photo of the Titanic Museum in Belfast but this will do.  The building is designed to look like a ship.  The inside is enormous and impressive.  Take note of the wedge of windows.

This is the view out those windows.  Even Ireland's shipping ports are beautiful.

The Titanic Museum was full of many kinds of interactive activities, including a "dark ride" of the kind you would experience in Disneyland.  The above photo shows an example of maid's quarters.

This reproduction of a large state room on the Titanic was beautiful.  I have never been on a cruise but if I could have a room like this, I might even move in.

This representation of the Titanic as it was found decades after it sunk is in under the floor.

We headed back to the Republic of Ireland and Dublin after only one night in Northern Ireland.  Since NI uses pounds, not euros, I suppose it was a good idea.  (The exchange rate for pounds is quite a bit higher than euros.)  After checking in we headed out on our own to find dinner.  I couldn't resist snapping a photo of this--I had a good friend in high school whom we fondly referred to as Mary Mac.  After all, it was her name (just not all of it).

I guess I figured I didn't have enough photos of doors.  This neighborhood was exquisite.  It made me think of the movie, Mary Poppins.  Lots of leafy, green trees and handsome homes.

I would love love love to come home to this pink house every day.

The white trim is like icing on a cake--yum!

I would love this little balcony, too--shabby and chippy is a style that I love, as well.

A photo shop water color version of this set of doors---so gracious--just like Ireland.  Go to and scroll down for my other Ireland posts.

The Most Beautiful Building in Belfast Ireland: Day Eleven  

Posted by Heidi

Each town and city in Ireland has its own personality.  The same is true of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; they are two different countries with many subtle differences.  They were once all the same country, of course, but Dublin, the capitol of the ROI, was mostly built out during the Georgian era, whereas Belfast, the capitol of NI, boasts the most surviving Victorian buildings in all of Ireland.  The difference between Georgian and Victorian?  If Georgian architecture is the cake, Victorian style is the icing.  And I do so love cake frosting. 

Our time in Belfast was short and we didn't see as much as I would have liked--partly because I couldn't tear myself away from the Belfast City Hall, what I call the most beautiful building in Belfast.  As such, it deserves its own blog post. 

At the front of the building one finds the memory garden for victims of the Titanic.  Something I did not know about the Titanic before my visit to Ireland was how many of the people hired to work on the ship were Irish.  So many, in fact, there is a Titanic Museum, also in Belfast (more on that in my next post).  You can read about it and the inscription HERE.

I love the windows in this building.  This photo was taken from a great distance as these windows were on the second story but one can still see how beautiful they are.

These ground floor windows are in the cafeteria/restaurant;  I like the way the building across the street is reflected in the panes of glass.

This sculpture greets you as you enter the building.  It depicts the Earl of Belfast.  My research (scant and rapid) leads me to believe that the last man to hold that particular title died in 1883 but I can't be sure--the Wikipedia entry redirects to the Marquess of Donegall and it is all a bit confusing.  However, I think it is safe to assume he is depicted here due to the name of the city.  The plaque above the statue lists the council members in 1906, the year the building was completed. 

There are many parts to this building and I so wish we had been allowed to go up the stairs to the upper floor.  There was plenty to admire on the ground floor, however.  Be sure to click on the photos to view the lovelies larger.

I would not want to be the one responsible for keeping this place dusted.  (I'm sure the feeling would be mutual as I am a woeful duster.)

The amount of work and dedication and talents and the sheer number of delicious scrolls is mind boggling.

I wish I had paid more attention (or remembered what I read) about this window.  I suspect it is a rendering of St. Michael but I don't really know. Finally, we had seen all there was to see below stairs and I turned my full attention to the staircase and what I could see of what was above. 

I have seen photos online of the first floor (what Americans would refer to as the second floor) rotunda so I suppose they do allow visitors up there. I wish they had the day we were there.  The pictures promise even more beauty than we saw.

To read my other Ireland posts, go HERE to find links to the others. 


Simple Delicous Shepherd's Pie Irish Soda Bread Muffins and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies for St Patrick's Day  

Posted by Heidi

We started the day out with a walk in the foothills near our home.  During the few months that we enjoy green hills, I am always struck by how much it looks like Ireland.  Now that I have been there, I can say with absolute authority--it does!  In fact, there were places in Ireland where I felt like I was at home in Northern California.  I am so blessed to live here and so blessed to have visited Ireland. 

Ireland's national traditional colors are the gold and the green.  We see this in nature at this time of year and it is beautiful.

Setting a lovely table enhances any meal.  I used treasures that I acquired in Ireland as well as other pieces that I already owned (I have been crazy for Ireland for many decades so have collected quite a bit).

I also decorate the house for St. Patrick's Day.  I am not Catholic and my Irish blood is scant but I think all holidays are fun.  I love my little Irish lass doll with her cloth body and papier mache head.  Someone took great care in cutting out all of those shamrocks for her skirt.

I chose to make Shepherd's Pie (with hamburger since we are not fans of lamb) Irish soda bread muffins (gluten free) and Pistachio Shortbread cookies (both a gluten free and a glutinous version).

This Shepherd's Pie is very simple and incredibly delicious.  Peel four large potatoes and boil until cooked.  Mash them up with a little butter and about half a cup of shredded cheese (whatever kind you like).  As you are doing this, brown a pound (or two if you like) of hambuger.  When cooked, add beef broth and let it simmer a bit so that it isn't watery.  Fill a baking dish (any size and shape--the more potatoes and beef you use, the bigger the pan--these amounts will fit into a 9X9 cake pan) with the meat and spread evenly.  Pour frozen, mixed vegetables (whatever you like) evenly over the meat--use as many as you wish and will fit in your pan.  You can use fresh, too, but some things you will need to cook first, such as carrots.  Corn, peas, green beans, should be fine uncooked at this point.  Spread the cheesy potatoes evenly over the whole thing, add seasonings according to taste, and put in the oven for 25 minutes at 275 degrees.  I suppose you could leave it in longer if you like your potatoes browned.  Serve hot--yum!

These Irish Soda Bread Muffins are gluten free and very yummy.  The recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website.  I substituted equal amounts of flour for 1/4th cup coconut flour and 1/4th cup ground flax because they are tasty, good for you, and help hold gluten free baking together better.  Also, I did not sprinkle sugar on top.  In fact, if you like more traditional soda bread, I would add less sugar in the recipe, as well.  We liked them sweet--they were so good!

I baked gluten free cupcakes with whipped cream frosting and purchased regular ones for those in the house who don't eat gluten-free (it is not difficult to guess which ones are mine and which are store bought).

The Pistachio Shortbread Cookies are also a King Arthur Flour recipe. (The KAF version uses crushed pistachios on the top but I was fine with the amount of nuts already in the pudding mix.) The flour is added last so, right before, I divided the dough (this recipe is about two cups total at this point) and added gluten free flour to one and wheat flour to the other.  The recipe does not mention using a spring form pan as a very easy way to release these cookies (use parchment paper).  I did and it worked great.  Since I don't have two and needed to bake them at the same time, I put the gluten free dough on a regular cookie sheet lined with parchment and rolled it out into a circle about the same size as the spring form pan.  Since I don't have the expensive cookie press pans, etc., or a shamrock cookie cutter small enough, I used a 1" heart shaped cookie cutter to make the Irish knot work on the cookies.  A sprinkling of shamrock quins from Fancy Flours perked these right up.  These were delicious and really satisfied my craving for both sugar cookies and shortbread.

We ended the day out on the back patio by our "Celtic Corner" and enjoyed the beautiful, mild weather.  Happy St. Patrick's Day!