Sunrise, Ireland just over the horizon.


We hit the ground running, but stopped at the Cliffs of Moher.


In the Burren.


Beautifully bleak, quite antique.


Downtown Ennis.


Ennis rooftops.

We’re off to see the Irish

School vacation week stress not fun for all in the family

For parents, winter school vacation week can be as stressful as taking the SATs. What do you do with the kids? Do you have to take time off work? Do you have to go somewhere? Will the kids hate you if you don’t? Can you afford to even think about it?

One family’s solution: father and teen daughter staying home to get some stuff done; mother and 12-year-old bumming a flight to Ireland tonight.

Four_leaf_clover_03_1There once was an adventurous pair
Traveling standby Boston-Shannon by air
They had a couple of guidebooks
And if mom could find the passports
They’d visit Galway, Limerick and Adare.

I’m bringing Lappy, so stay tuned for photos and travel writing, Monday through Friday. We’re staying at the Temple Gate Hotel in Ennis.

I’ve booked a two-door economy Nissan Micra with Budget for just 32 Euros for four days! (Not incuding taxes and usurious add-ons.)

I will be driving stick on the wrong side of the road. Hope my junior navigator can read a map.

Two options for a snowy Saturday


Be outside, like Zeus.


Be inside, like Zelda.

It’s been snowing in earnest since midmorning. We have four or five inches of powder-light white stuff.

Happy first day of winter vacation for local public school kids. Even though it’s Saturday and a day off anyway, we have been wearing pajamas all day to make a vacation statement.

My sweatpants are orange. I think that’s the new gray.

Laura is playing electronic sudoku, I’m reading favorite online magazines and newspapers, and Anna is watching Comedy Central.

Ald04John just called from San Juan to say hi. He’s sitting in the cockpit waiting for passengers to finish boarding. “Drive carefully tonight,” I said.

More snow today, more cold ahead

This is a favorite site for links to new articles, essays, opinions, book reviews, plus newspapers, magazines and columnists: Arts & Letters Daily.

Click it when you’re in the mood for some hot-off-the-presses high-minded stuff.

Veritas odit moras… truth hates delay.

Artists in residence


A famous monkeologist shows a giant slide of his recent monkey encounters to a television talk show host yesterday when Stranger Than Fiction improv group took the stage with North Hampton School kids.

Art takes up residence in classroom

NORTH HAMPTON – In Ms. Coronato’s classroom, fifth-grader Max Sopher was eating an invisible meatball sandwich with huge meatballs. When Sarah Tymochko said, “Dance the Macarena,” Tyler Whitten looked a little embarrassed, but he did it.

In the gym, third-graders Mary McWilliams and James Gagne were solving addition and subtraction problems using leaps, lunges and pirouettes, along with the rest of Ms. Gustafson’s third-grade class.

What is causing students at North Hampton School to behave so oddly? In a word: art.

Two groups have been visiting the school as part of the annual Artist in Residence program.

The improvisational theater and comedy group Stranger Than Fiction has spent the past two weeks with fifth- through eighth-graders introducing the students to the fundamentals of improv, through games and scene building activities.

Kids in first through fourth grades have studied creative movement with members of Ballet New England for the past week.

Stranger Than Fiction
Ballet New England
North Hampton School Arts on Stage

Scat, cats

MusicalnotesOkay, so I had a little fun with an online dictionary of jazz slang…

Hep cats groove at Winnacunnet

Three tenors and a bass from Winnacunnet High School were in the mix when they hit the Nashua scene a couple weekends ago to lend their cool sounds to two New Hampshire jazz choruses.

Adam is from North Hampton.

The Chamber Singers are touring SAU 21 lower schools today, along with the high school jazz band. I’m going to pop over to North Hampton School now to hear them.

My daughter Anna is a female tenor in the group, and it’s her birthday today. She’s 17!

Dog devotion


Column: Small Pond
Hampton Union, Feb. 21

Owners show off in dog gone crazy world

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. A few days went by in which he created some more wondrous things. On the sixth day, God said, let the earth bring forth beasts of the earth, living creatures after his kind: and it was so.

And God said, let us make man. But he will need a companion so let us also make dog. And He brought forth abundantly a variety and richness of dogs but the finest of these beasts was the golden retriever. It was a creature that combined the pleasing virtues of life-loving exuberance and wild enthusiasm with soft fur and sweet devotion. A marvelous strange beast created to grow old without ever growing up. And God saw what He had made, and it was mostly good.

And on the seventh day, while God was resting, man (actually woman) and golden retriever went for a walk in the woods to appreciate that the earth brings forth grass, and trees, which make sticks. And though man and dog had dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth except for ticks, they didn’t make a big deal about it. In fact, they felt blessed.

It’s nice to have other creatures to share creation with. My personal favorite is the dog. Can you tell? When I stop and think about it, I pretty much adore my dog as much as he adores me. (Except that time he rolled in a dead porcupine.) Last week’s 130th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show indicates I’m not the only one suffering from puppy love.

Westminster, “America’s Dog Show,” is the Superbowl and Miss America Pageant of dog shows. A total of 2,622 dogs in 165 breeds was trotted out for inspection. The show was broadcast on TV and via video clips on the internet to millions of viewers. The dogs were judged by their conformance to breed standards. This year’s top dog was Rufus, a bull terrier who won Best in Show.

“What’s a bull terrier,” I asked my husband, after reading about the big win.

“You know, Spuds McKenzie,” was all he had to say.

Bull terriers were first bred in the 1800’s, from bulldogs and white English terriers, as a “gentleman’s companion,” according to the American Kennel Club. “After an active puppyhood, expect to live with them on the couch.” Where, together, you and your canine couch spud can watch football and Bud Light commercials.

New Hampshire had at least one winner this year, Billie from Boscawen. She is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, a reddish dog bred to look like a fox. Tollers work with hunters to lure swimming ducks by “tolling,” a playful, zesty bouncing around.

Some people say it’s better to get a mixed breed dog, or mutt, because they are less prone to hereditary disorders from inbreeding. The American Kennel Club says there are no studies that prove this conclusively. They also say that if you select a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder you’ll have a good idea what it will look and act like as an adult. With the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever that may include, according to the breed Web site, “a penetrating scream to indicate excitement and eagerness. It sounds like a dog being fed into a wood chipper.”

That’s good to know before you fall in love with that foxy red furball. What is it with puppies? Their breath is actually and truly sweet. They are so cute you don’t mind getting up three times in the middle of the night to let them out, or losing a favorite shoe to their little teeth.

This year’s Sporting Best in Breed was a golden retriever (yay!) whose full name is Chuckanut Party Favour O Novel. (Boo!) It’s easy to make fun of dog owners’ obsessions and weirdness. The uncomfortably funny movie “Best in Show” did in 2000. But dog shows are just an extreme example of our continuing doggy devotion.

I like what Samuel Butler had to say about our canine companions: “The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”