Monday, January 2, 2012

Orange you greeen with envy? (for my "Ireland" friends)

So far, a gray/brown December... diminishing the holiday sparkle. Staying inside on this rainy afternoon, I sat by the window and looked through some photographs I took while touring southern Ireland this past summer. Although discovering similar nostalgia gray skies in the photos, they spoke differently...soft and transparent, sheathing through retired dwellings found along the luminous green countryside. I felt green with envy to travel again...

         With a little imagination (and maybe a bike)... I'll peddle back to Ireland for a few wistful glimpses...

Ahhh, a splash of color bonding the old with modern Dublin. The River Liffey (meaning "a life" in Irish) runs through the heart of Ireland.

A quick stop for a coffee at Red Rose Cafe (in honor of me mom, Rose)... Irish Coffee was created in 1942 by chef Joe Sheridan to warm-up travelers that disembarked in Foynes, a port-town in southwest Ireland, from an 18 hour trip across the Atlantic on a flying boat (that's another story).

  • Coffee
  • Brown sugar :
    2 teaspoons
  • Whipped cream
  • Irish whiskey :
    2 or 3 full big spoons

Anyone that knows me knows I can't pass by an art gallery without stopping... in the window a whimsical painting of two roosters... very similar to a design on a wine label (a bottle of La Vieille Ferme) I just bought...  inexpensive but lovely.  Deja vu, it's amazing how small reminders of a place turn-up unexpectedly.

"Top o' the mornin' to ya, Lassie", and the correct response to this Irish greeting, "And the balance of the day to yourself."

Too early for a Bulmers (Irish Cider)... maybe later, you don't have to be tall to order a tall one... the Smurfs will drink to that! :)

Although I may prefer a Guinness... the milk of Ireland (according to our taxi driver).

A view from the top of the Guinness Storehouse rooftop bar serving creamy pints of stout.  Ingredients (since 1759) of barley, water, hop and yeast... the secret that distinguishes Guinness Beer from others is in the brewing and the Irish have Arthur Guinness to thank for that, the original Brew Master, but shhh, it's a secret!

Old Jameson Distillery...
Ladies and Gentleman... not once, not twice but three time distilled, follow me into the other room to find out why (so many secrets in Ireland)! 

 Jameson combines malted barley with unmalted or "green" barley. The most famous component within Jameson is the "Pure Pot Still" distilling tradition.


Theater or a good many renown writers lived in Dublin.  The script of "Hay Fever" was written by Noel Coward... which leads us to the Dublin Writer's Museum haunted by such writers as Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest, James Joyce, Ulysses, and my favorite C.S. Lewis, Narnia chronicles... a wild sensation to be among the spirits of these great authors.

Getting late... ready to leave busy Dublin for the quiet lush green countryside...
                                                              Shlahn lyaht (Goodbye for now...)     

                                    To be continued...

                                                                  Guess I'll have to wait...      

    Orange you happy there's always something to look forward to?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Spy Hearts...

An enchanting day at the first (and hopefully annual) 7Springs Storywalk. Tuki and Stu took on a life of their own (literally) along with other favorite picture book characters. Artist Martha Murphy (Waking Bear Studio) painted the wonderful life-size murals. As author of The One That Counts, I read my story from an over-sized book to curious children of all ages. As I turned each large page, I witnessed expressions of surprise and delight as Tuki and Stu discovered the heart that counted the most! When I asked the kids, "Where did Stu feel the heart?", some patted the tops of their heads, but most knew without a doubt, that Stu felt Tuki's kindness inside (as these young listeners pointed to their own hearts).

 Ernie with grandson finding all sorts of hearts.
Taking the initiative to draw their own pictures and hearts! 
Lavender hearts!

Following the story, children and parents were given an "I Spy" activity of an imaginary forest (I illustrated) full of hidden hearts... 32 to be exact! They counted and colored hearts with bright hues of red, purple, yellow, orange and blue. In the eyes of children, hearts come in many colors... I wish we could all see it that way.  

Kelly Frye, Mike Clark and Michelle Wright...  Pittsburgh celebrities read some of the other stories to children at the Storywalk with passion and zest! 

The audience grew bigger and bigger and more curious as
Tuki &Stu bowled for peanuts!

Although I'm not a celebrity, all those attentive little faces made me feel like one...
 just for a day! 

Tuki & Stu with new friends! 

Orange you glad everyone has a heart?

Have you read The One That Counts?
email: to order your copy

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuki and Stu join Storywalk at Seven Springs on Saturday!

 Look Tuki, there's a heart!

Hearts are everywhere as Tuki and Stu, two elephant friends, discover on their way into town for a fun afternoon of pizza and bowling.  Bossy Stu challenges Tuki to a game of "counting hearts" and is determined to win!  At seven to none, Tuki learns not all hearts are visible to the eye and begins to feel hopeless until… the one heart that truly counts is found.              
   The One That Counts is a visually engaging and imaginative story that underlines the power of friendship.


 What is Storywalk?

Nolan reads The One That Counts to Kate

A Project of the Pittsburgh Association for Education of Young Children (PAEYC)
Kate finds a heart!
Storywalk is a free, fun-filled, 3hour family event.  It’s a chance for children to experience the wonder of books and the art of storytelling. It encourages children to listen, read, write and imagine as they make their way from story to story; each one marked by a representative set piece and read from an oversized copy of the book!

Meanwhile, between stories local community and cultural organizations will be there to supply information about their services and offer family–friendly activities to entertain and inspire the children’s creativity – things like recording their own stories, bookmaking, and other crafts.

There will be music, face painting, African drumming, literacy building activities sponsored by 7Springs.

WHEN: Saturday, August 20th from 10:00am – 1:00pm
WHERE:  Seven Springs Resort
Nolan & Kate together find the one that counts!
PS- Join Tuki and Stu and look for hearts in the world around you! Take a picture and post it on

Photo by Bob Rice 
Like Stu, I too found a puddle-heart !  Just after a light morning rain, I was jogging around the park in Beaver with my "Pilates On 3rd" friends and there it was...

Photographer Bob Rice, who lives on the corner, was kind enough to come out and take a photo!

Orange you happy to find a heart and share a heart?

BatCat Press
The One That Counts was published by BatCat Press, a small press that operates in conjunction with Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School, Midland, PA. The staff consists of literary and media students who have designed the layout, assembled each book cover by hand, and used a single binding machine to complete the process.  The result, each book artfully crafted with a little character of its own.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Aunt Helen; Sister Maureen Therese

Silo & Wildflowers

My sisters and I took a 5 hour road trip to Adrian, Michigan to visit our Aunt Helen, better known as Sister Maureen Therese. A devoted nun with The Dominican Sisters for over 60 years.
   As we crossed over the state line from Ohio to Michigan, red barns, wild flowers, silos and cornfields line the road that lead us into Adrian. 

Vickie, Theresa, & me with Aunt Helen
Period architecture lends the downtown and campus of the Adrian Dominican Sisters a distinctive turn-of-the-last-century atmosphere, with graceful homes in the Queen Anne and Greek Revival styles. Siena Heights University, founded in 1919, is noted for it's fine arts program.
Heavenly Door- 
has a halo :)

   We stayed at the Weber Center (a retreat and conference center on campus) which also houses the old selection of the academy. As we were eating lunch, I noticed a series of illustrations (drawn in pencil) that encompassed the room. My Aunt Helen explained the drawings were originally from a book (now out of print) titled, Amid the Alien Corn, based on the Book of Ruth from the old testament. The drawings depicted the history and daily routines of the first Dominican Sisters.  Looking more closely, the scenes were drawn realistically in contrast and details and yet, had an abstract quality defining angles and depth as each one told its own complex story. The subjects were relevant to the time; an vintage iron and ironing board, a ladder-back chair adjacent to a vase of lilies, nuns dressed in the traditional habits, but more intriguing was the subtle symbolism that was worked in to the pieces; an opened window graced by the wind. 

A brief summary, The Book of Ruth:
Sit for a while...
There was a famine in Israel. Naomi was forced to emigrate to Moab. There her sons were married to two Moabite women: Ruth and Orpah.  Naomi's husband and her two sons then died leaving her a widow with two daughter-in-law who were Moabites-the traditional enemies of the Israelites. Naomi decided to return to Israel. She advised Ruth and Orpah to stay in Moab and remarry people of their own kind. Orpah remained in Moab and disappeared into history. Ruth, on the other hand, decided to follow Naomi. She implore...

Amid the fields     (passing by in a car...movement blurs photo for a painterly effect)
16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee,
or to return from following after thee:
for whither thou goest, I will go;
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people,
and thy God my God:

17 Where thou diest, will I die,
and there will I be buried:
the LORD do so to me,
and more also,
if ought but death part thee and me.

Naomi and Ruth had to glean for a living, as it was in the middle of the barley harvest.  Ruth worked so hard that she attracted the attention of Boaz who kept her save in his field. Naomi, playing the matchmaker, encouraged Ruth to sleep at the feet of Boaz at night while he guarded his harvest. When Boaz married Ruth, the Moabite, he introduced gentile blood into the bloodline of Christ.

I began to understand the the correlation between the Adrian Dominican Sisters and Ruth...symbolically, they too are amid the cornfields committed to harvesting the word of God.

Orange you blessed to know that someone is always praying for you?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Cool Day at 95 Degrees

"Cool Couch on River Road "                         Photo by Ro
  Yesterday was a hot steamy day where the temperature rose to a stifling 95 degrees, but with the high humidity, the weatherman warned viewers it would feel more like a 105 outside!  "Hydrate and stay inside where there is air-conditioning or go to the mall", was his advice.  So I did just that!

Recently, I had central air installed, even though, I'm truly not an "air-conditioning" kind of person. With the windows open, I love the warm scented summer air and hearing the birds, neighbors (how else do you find out the latest neighborhood news?) and the rumbling of  lawn mowers.  It's all part of summer. But staying in the frigid cold air of my home seemed like the right thing to do yesterday and enticed me to conjured up a few cool weather rituals.  First, I rumaged through the frig and came up with enough ingredients (except for celery) to make a big pot of chicken noodle soup ...simmering, it smelled so "homey".  Next, I settled on the couch with my tattered fleece throw (my sister made for me with a pattern of cappuccino cups) to watch "Tamara Drewe"(Starz), a movie about a cheating mystery writer... funny, a little predictable but lovely cinematography of the English countryside.  Ahhh... I  dozzzed off! 

Finally, feeling guilty for my lack of ambition, I drove to the mall in my compact air-conditioned car. As I entered the sub-zero temperature of Macy's to seek out a few summer sales, goose-bumps began to rise on my arms and legs. It wasn't long before I was lured over to the newly racked fall merchandise and ended up buying a smart looking black and white woven wool jacket...was it really July?!  I'm convinced (I needed real air) being submersed in air-conditioning all day long had brainwashed me into believing it was actually a chilly day or maybe... I just had the "winter blues"!

Orange you happy not to sweat the small stuff?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peace, Love and Little Donuts...

A few weekends ago I made a trip to the Strip District in open market of fresh flowers, fruit, ethnic baked goods, cheeses, meats and small cafés.  I love the excitement of the street vendors competing to grab your attention…some with adorable hand knitted wool hats left-over from the cold winter months or "Steelers" sweatshirts from the previous football season. Our favorite café is a little Italian restaurant called “Café On The Strip”…delicious wedding soup, antipastos and fresh crusty bread. I brought along my "Holga" camera to snap a few spontaneous moments (it also has a built-in flash with colored filters: red, blue and yellow to cast a mood on your subject) and at times, I forgot to advanced the 120/film…and end up with few interesting double exposures.
                                                                     All Photos by Ro Macuga
When I think of the color orange (my favorite color), I envision a round shape. I guess I'm relating it to the things I orange, peeled or not peeled, a fiery sunset, an umbrella (I own) or a basketball, although I’ve never played basketball, except for when I was teaching my students about "Sports Photography." To demonstrate (I took one for the team), I instructed them to take photos of me (ha) dribbling and shooting a basketball in the gym (located just above the art room) to gain an understanding of freezing action using a fast shutter speed…I actually made one basket out of about 17 and a few off the rim...not bad for a 5'2" (won't mention my age) art teacher :)! But an "orange donut", although round, has never come to mind…until I saw that sign, smiled and took a photo. It was truly an orange kinda day!
Orange you happy tomorrow is Saturday?   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boredom & A Fiesty Fly Named Millie...

Inspiration of Characters…

The idea of writing children’s books started at a writer’s conference, Fishtrap, located among the pines trees of the Wallowa Mountains, Joseph, Oregon. I signed up for a song writing workshop instructed by singer/songwriter Craig Carothers (album: Air Mail Blues) and had the privilege of pairing up with the talented Kate Power, also a professional folk singer/songwriter (album, Dancing In The Kitchen).  Together we wrote the quirky lyrics to a somber melody for an assignment inspired by one word boredom.  The song was titled Mole Hole, and the first verse went like this...

Nothin’ to do, nowhere to go.
Finished my book, coffee pot’s low.
No friends around to muddle my mood.
Nothin’ to do, I’ll eat some more food.
Who wants to rock, who wants to roll? Just leave me here in my little mole hole.

 Budding songwriters w/Laurie Lewis
The next year I traveled back to Fishtrap for another round of songwriting and worked with bluegrass singer/songwriter Laurie Lewis (albums: True Stories and my favorite, Seeing Things). My inspiration was a fly that would not leave me alone so I named it Millie (after my happy go lucky Aunt Millie) to give it an identity and lovable personality. No longer did I think about swatting that particular fly. The lyrics of the song portrayed the fly (Millie) receiving the ultimate gift... a second chance at life. With much encouragement from friends, I illustrated the song into a lighthearted children’s story titled Go Fly, Fly.

Aunt Millie on her way to see the world from a different point of view!

You have a whole new circumstance,
Go and find your second chance.
Spread your wings to the great outdoors,
So many backroads to explore.
A big blue world is waiting for you
And from the air it's a splendid view.
(Excerpts from the story, Go Fly, Fly ...still waiting to be published!)

Orange you happy to give or receive a second chance?