Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s day’

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton

One of my favourite paintings in The National Gallery of Ireland is Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs by Frederic William Burton.

This richly coloured watercolour painting depicts the ill-fated lovers Hellelil and Hildebrand, meeting on the stone stairway of a medieval tower. The princess and her bodyguard had fallen in love but her father regarded the young soldier as an unsuitable match for his daughter and ordered his sons to kill him.

The painting captures the couple’s poignant final embrace. Burton’s inspiration for the painting was the story of the ill-fated lovers as told in an old Danish ballad.

It seems I am not the only one smitten by this exquisite painting. Back in 2012, RTE ran a competition to find the country’s favourite piece of artwork and The Meeting on the Turret Stairs was the winner.

In 1864, Burton sold the painting to a dealer, Edward Fox White. Interestingly, in the contract they signed, Burton retained the copyright. The painting changed hands a number of times over the following 30 years but in 1898 it was bought by Miss Margaret McNair Stokes (sister of Whitley Stokes).

An article by Jeanette Stokes in the Irish Arts Review, (Vol.26, no.3, 2009) refers to the fact that there are tantalising hints in some of Margaret Stokes’s letters to her family that her interest in Burton was something more than friendship. Margaret Stokes was writing a biography of Burton when she died in 1900, in her will she bequeathed the painting, along with a number of other works by Burton, to the National Gallery of Ireland.

Sadly, the painting is only available to view at limited times each week, due to its medium and sensitivity to light. The National Gallery’s website states: “The Meeting on the Turret Stairs will be back on limited display from 2 March 2015. Viewing Times from 2nd March: Mondays and Wednesdays: 11.30am to 12.30pm. Admission is free, but a timed-ticketing system will be in operation. No advance booking. Tickets are limited and available on the day, from the Information Desk in the Millennium Wing, on a first-come, first-served basis.”

If you’re in Dublin, stop by The National Gallery of Ireland…and, if you’re lucky, you too will catch a glimpse of this exceptional Irish love painting.



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Still looking for something to do today or tired of the “usual” Valentine’s Day activities? If you answer “Yes!” to either of these questions, then perhaps you’ll want to  join one of the many flash mobs participating in the global  One Billion Rising movement.

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You may remember from my Valentine’s Day post of 2013, One Billion Rising is a global movement promoting an end to violence against woman and girls, initiated by the American playwright Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues .

Ireland's Mary Robinson lends her support to One Billion Rising.

Ireland’s Mary Robinson lends her support to One Billion Rising.

Ensler introduced her anti-violence V-Day campaign in 1998, when UN figures showed one in three women was beaten or sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, which amounted to one billion women worldwide. Sadly, 16 years later, the casualty count remains pretty much unchanged. In response, last year locally organised events on Valentine’s Day saw one billion women and men from 200 countries gather to promote action and awareness.

If you’re in Ireland, a One Billion Rising flash mob will be meeting shortly on Grafton Street (outside St.Stephens Green Shopping Centre) at 5pm. The event is being organised by Amnesty International UCD. Check out the dance moves here:

Another event is being held tomorrow from 6.00-10.00pm at Tai Chi Ireland. More details here:

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 8.44.07 AMTo find an event in your part of the world, please visit the One Billion Rising website.

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One Billion Rising Irish Website here: https://www.facebook.com/VDayOneBillionRisingIreland

UCD Amnesty International Website here: https://www.facebook.com/amnestyinternational.ucd

Hilary Fannin’s article in the Irish Times mentioning One Billion Rising event in Ireland here: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/happy-loved-up-lemmings-day-here-s-your-card-1.1690678

One Billion Rising blog posts at: http://www.jackizehner.com/2014/02/13/one-billion-rising-for-justice-rise-release-dance/ and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristi-york-wooten/eve-ensler-more-than-a-bi_b_4775067.html .

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Valentine’s Day in an Irish home looks much the same as it does anywhere else. There are the pink and red cards with hearts all over them exchanged, the box of chocolates gooey and sweet, the flowers, the bottle of wine shared over dinner, and plenty of smoochin’ going on {if you’re into that kind of thing…which we definitely are!}.

Being a hopeless romantic and a foodie, I always try to find ways to make the day extra special for everyone. Starting with breakfast.

Valentine Breakfast 2014 1


My husband likes an egg in the morning. Our girls prefer pancakes. With the aid of my trusty heart-shaped cookie cutter there’s no trouble whipping up both on Valentine’s morning.

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Valentines Day Breakfast Ideas 2014 2

Cranberry Banana Smoothie

All four of us love smoothies, especially this bright-pink and deep-red, healthy cranberry banana blend. Cranberries are one of the most antioxidant-packed berries around. I buy extra bags of them in November when they’re readily available in the supermarket and keep them in the freezer for the rest of the year. You get the most benefits from eating them raw, so adding them to a smoothie is a very healthy choice. Can I get a whoo hoo and a yummm…..?

Valentine's Day 2014 Katie

Valentines Day 2014 Sarah

And, sure, it takes a little extra time in the morning to pull it all together {15 minutes, perhaps} but the smiles I get for the extra effort warms my heart and makes it so very worth it!

From our little Irish home to yours…Happy Valentine’s Day. Cheers!

Cranberry Banana Smoothie

Makes 4


8oz/1 cup apple juice

12oz/2 cups whole cranberries (I use frozen)

1 large banana

2 tablespoons maple syrup


1. Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2. Taste and add more  maple syrup, if needed. Serve immediately.

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there’s a rush in our Irish home to get decorations up and plans made. I don’t know about you, but we don’t buy into the whole commercial-ness of the celebration. We prefer, instead, to get back to our roots and do it “old style”.

Banish the over-priced roses and bring back the free-flowing bouquets of long ago. Forgotten flowers  like calla lilies, peonies, hydrangea, ranunculus, astilbe, and dahlias are simply stunning and less expensive too.

Valentine's Day Flowers 2

Photo Credit: The Knot

Write a letter and fill it with love. Whether it’s you doing the writing or it’s your kids making a card, a personally penned poem or heart-felt sentiment is so much nicer than a Hallmark card.

Great Kids Crafts from Pinterest.

Great Kids Crafts from Pinterest.

Turn up the tunes and dance in your sitting (living) room.  When was the last time you stopped everything and took your beloved in your arms for a good old-fashioned waltz around the kitchen? It may sound silly but it’s those little moments, when we step outside of our comfort zones, that we remember most. A dance is free but the memory is priceless.

Check out this playlist from 8 Tracks Radio. Photo Credit: 8tracks.com.

Check out this playlist from 8 Tracks Radio.
Photo Credit: 8tracks.com

If the weather allows, gather up some comfy blankets, fill up those hot water bottles, grab a bottle of your favourite bubbly (nonalcoholic for the kids…of course!) and head out to the back garden for a bit of stargazing. If you have a small fire pit, all the better, stoke it up and share stories of days gone by and roast marshmallows while you’re at it.

Champagne from Brown Thomas, Blankets from Avoca Handweavers and Hot Water Bottle from Dunnes Stores.

Champagne from Brown Thomas, Blankets from Avoca Handweavers and Hot Water Bottle from Dunnes Stores.

And finally, for a bit of long-forgotten romance with a spiritual twist, attend mass on Valentine’s Day at the Catholic church on Whitefriar Street. The mass in honour of St. Valentine, whose relics have been enshrined in the church since 1836, and a special blessing of wedding rings immediately following is one way to pay homage to the vows you made on the day you wed…and it’s great historical trip for families with young children too.

Photo Credit: The Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites

Photo Credit: The Irish Province of the Order of Carmelites


Just in case you couldn’t see the links, here they are again:

Love song playlist at 8tracks.com

Heart-shaped hot water bottle from Dunnes Stores

Details of Valentine’s Day mass at Whitefriar Street Church

Champagne and Lauderee Macarons at Brown Thomas

Gorgeous throws and blankets at Avoca Handweavers

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Love is in the air today and I hope you get a chance to breathe it in deeply. If you’re still looking for some simple, yet lovely, ways to make the day special for someone you love, check-out these great ideas!

Origami Hearts from KSL Studio 5 – these easy to make origami hearts with lollipop centers are perfect for tucking into a napkin at dinner-time or for a children’s Valentine Day school party.

Valentine’s Day Coupon from The Twinery Blog – the secret to a really good coupon is 1) it has to be cute and 2) it has to be specific. I love these designs made by Sugarsticks Parties and found on thetwineryblog.com because they can be used for kids, spouses, partners or friends. All you need is a colour printer and card stock – couldn’t be easier!

Chocolate is on nearly everyone’s mind today. If your sweetie loves chocolate, try these simple to make but oh so delicious chocolate covered strawberries from The Food Network’s website. This yummy looking photo on the left was taken by beautifulcataya on Flickr.

For more ideas check-out One Charming Party – this website is the genius of Utah woman Brittany Egbert, mother of four gorgeous children and a party-planning diva. On onecharming party.com, Egbert offers up some great tips from her “lovely sponsors” which are sure to delight one and all. The heart votives were particularly sweet and, if you don’t have all the equipment required to make the votives, perhaps you could use stickers instead.

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