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Nothing fancy, just a nice recipe for something called Irish Soda Bread, which has nothing to do with Ireland but it’s simple and delicious, so here you go. If you’re like me, you don’t keep buttermilk around so use yoghurt or cream or something, and a squeeze of lemon.

tastes better than it looks

tastes better than it looks

4 cups unbleached flour, plus more for kneading

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons butter

2 eggs, beaten, optional

1 1/4 to 2 cups buttermilk (use more if you omit the eggs)

1 cup raisins or currants, soaked in hot water

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter, add eggs and buttermilk. Stir in raisins. Knead a few times and let rest 10 minutes. * Shape into an 8- or 9-inch round. Score top with a knife in the shape of a plus sign. Place in 9-inch cast-iron pan and bake at 375 degrees until top is brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool on rack.

Serve toasted with butter. Try it with a wedge of sharp cheese and a bit of hard-smoked salmon. Good luck!

Speaking of luck, I have written several books about Ireland because I love it there. I love the people and their history and heritage. Irish Magic and Irish Magic 2 are anthologies written with some of my favorite writers–Roberta Gellis, Morgan Llywelyn, Barbara Samuel. The Mist and the Magic takes place in Tudor Ireland. And the late, great Dancing on Air will be republished this year with a new title: At the Queen’s Summons. Good luck with that, too!

four novellas of IrelandPlease click this link for a beautiful slide show of the Irish countryside. And here’s a little something to read from a favorite author and friend, Malachy McCourt. And if you just don’t have enough controversy in your life, here’s a bit about the banning of “Danny Boy.” As a child, I memorized a piano piece called “Irish Derry Air” and while playing it, I was always picturing this enormous green-clad derriere.

Slainte!

my beach in the snowFarewell to beloved poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue. This loss feels so big and so sad, yet his spirit shines from the pages he left behind. He was just 53 when he died unexpectedly–peacefully, in his sleep–while in France. He lived in Connemara in the west of Ireland, he spoke Irish and wrote with clarity, from the heart. Here’s the Irish Times obit, and a nice tribute on God Is Not Elsewhere. Further info can be found on his web site. I wonder if, in writing this poem, he knew it would bring comfort to those he left behind. Slainte!

On the death of the Beloved

Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or might or pain can reach you.

Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.

The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.

Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.

Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.

We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.

Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.

Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.

When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.

May you continue to inspire us:

To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.

— John O’Donohue

 

You never know when you’re going to need this–How to say “Cheers” in any number of languages. It’s a long story–like, 110,000 words long at this point–but I needed to have a character say “Cheers” in a South African dialect: “Amandla!”

I can’t vouch for its accuracy but the French and German are trustworthy.

According to this chart, you toast somebody in Asturia by saying, “Gayola.” I can think of some places that would get you a punch in the nose for that. And others that might get you a date…

Slainte,

Susan

I love this time of year, because my Inner Irish Girl gets to come out and play. She looks out her window and sees this: ferry with rainbow

She gets to wear a sweater in the worst shade of green. She eats food in colors not found in nature, drinks beer to match and paints shamrocks on her fingernails. She bakes Skillet Irish Soda Bread, listens to music by the Young Dubliners and invites her friends over to watch Waking Ned Devine and The Commitments.

Also, my Inner Irish Girl gets to tell you about one of her favorite writers and people– Malachy McCourt. I’ve been to many, many writers’ conferences and sat through many Malachy McCourta keynote speech. Most of these have been excellent–these are writers, after all. But there’s one talk that stands out in my mind. It was an address to a huge ballroom full of people, mostly restless, socially-awkward writers hungry to hone their craft. It was a speech about the power of story and the deep well inside the writer, the place you go to again and again, seeking those hidden springs, where everything comes from. It was the kind of talk that makes you jump up out of your seat and rush to find a quiet spot, because you can’t wait to get going on your writing. This talk was given at the Maui Writers Conference by Malachy McCourt.

Of all the writers I know (and you’ll meet many of them on this blog, so stay tuned), Malachy has the most unique and varied bio. He’s been everything, including but not limited to: bestselling writer, film actor, columnist, theater actor and the Green Party’s candidate for Governor of New York. Frank & Malachy McCourt

 Malachy is the special luncheon speaker for the one-day, one-of-a-kind conference, “Writing in the Garden of the Gods,” on April 28. Take it from a jaded been-there-done-that writing conference veteran–you don’t want to miss this. And if that doesn’t convince you, just ask your own Inner Irish Girl or Irishman. It’s no blarney.

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