St Patrick's Day

In Honour of all Things Green on St Patrick's Day!

Green has never been my choice of colour to wear, it has never really suited me but I do love the Emerald Isle, shamrocks, Leprechauns, Fairies and rainbows. So on this day, March 17, I thought I would celebrate St Patrick's Day by sharing a few of my wonderful memories of this special place that is close to my heart. Those that have known me for a long time, also know my maiden name is "Branigan" so even though I am proudly Australian, there is no denying my also proud Irish heritage. In 2010 my husband and I spent part of an amazing 5 week holiday in the UK, on a road trip experiencing some of the delights of my (and his, he is Scottish) "home" country. 

I discovered the delightful architecture around Dublin via the open air double-decker bus. In so doing  also discovered that Dublin is probably the coldest place on Earth in October! We wondered why we were the only silly people sitting "up top" until I was so frozen I couldn't move! The Trinity College Library was the highlight of Dublin for me. It felt like entering another magical world filled with inspiration, dreams and so much knowledge! My mother-in-law had always talked about the Book of Kells, on seeing it I understood the grandeur and magnificence of this gospel book written and illustrated so delicately and intricately by Monks over 1200 years ago. I was in awe of this library and could have spent hours just sitting soaking up the ambience.

The Ring of Kerry filled me with wonder and creative writing ideas. As we walked through bush tracks to the lake I had visions of fairies and Leprechauns dancing at every turn. My dream is to return one day and spend time there completing longer walks and writing more stories. I have already built my fairy house for our garden and have story ideas in various planning stages. As for the Leprechauns, they are coming too. More on them in my alien adventure series in books 3, 4 and 5 still to be released. I do feel a trip back to Ireland may just be what I need to finish this series. We didn't spend near enough time in this gorgeous corner of Ireland, it did rain most of the time we were there making it difficult to walk and see things. Next time I plan to go more prepared with raincoat and gumboots.

We explored ancient castle ruins and stayed in renovated castles that were filled with history, Medieval  ornaments, (including complete Knight armour) and beautiful portraits. We met some fabulous Irish folk that made us feel welcome and right at home. So much so, one night we stayed up talking to 4:00 am with one amazing couple. We had the bar all to ourselves, no waiter or bartender, just us to help ourselves and leave the money on the bar when we left.

I tried to find out where "Branigan's" hail from? It appears they were fairly wide spread throughout the Isle. I was given answers from Dublin, south to Killarney or Kilkenny  as well as north to Kilkeel and beyond. They certainly seemed to get around, no wonder the name is said to be synonymous with Ireland.


In true "Bennett" style, we spontaneously decided to head north into Northern Ireland even though this was unplanned. Meant changing return flights to be able to stay a few extra days, but was so worth it. We drove up to County Antrim to explore the Giant's Causeway Coast. In a word...stunning! The Giant's Causeway was amazing, Dunluce Castle hauntingly spectacular and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge terrifying yet awesome. We walked till we dropped most days, there was so much picturesque scenery to see.



Sadly all good things must come to an end and so we caught the ferry from Larne across the North Channel to Scotland. I leave you with this warning - be sure to catch the ferry not the fairy, for if you catch the fairy across, upon arrival in Scotland your bags will be checked for Leprechauns. The Scots do not want uninvited guests.

These are a few of my special memories of Ireland. What are some of yours? Happy St Patrick's Day and may the luck of the Irish be with you.


Tea for Two or Maybe More.

IMG_0329Kids love any excuse for a tea party. My neighbour's kids think it's wonderful when I invite them over for High Tea. We go all out using my special china and make lots of tiny sandwiches and cakes. I try to make the tea party a memorable treat as if they were at high tea at an exclusive restaurant, something like High Tea at the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. It's a delight to watch the expressions on the faces of everyone concerned. I don't feel you need a reason to hold a tea party, they are a great idea with kids at any time. However you can use it as a prompt for reading and story writing. There are plenty of children's books on the market that include tea parties in their plots. The most classic one that comes to mind is Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." A Mad Hatter's tea party is the obvious choice.

That being said, this being the month of March where we turn our thoughts towards St Patrick's Day, Leprechauns and all things green, why not read a few Leprechaun tales and hold a "Green" or "Rainbow" tea party.

httpThe Leprechaun Who Loved Yellow://

"The Little Leprechaun Who Loved Yellow"  is a perfect choice as a children's picture book to read out loud together at bedtime or in the classroom. Within the pages are plenty of conversation starters for use during your tea party. A few topics for discussion could include being true to yourself, your uniqueness, building self-esteem, feelings and emotions, not to mention all the magnificent colours of the rainbow and where in nature you may find them.

In some ways "The Little Leprechaun Who Loved Yellow" shares a very similar message to my own

Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd

picture book "Emma the Eager Emu" who through her tenacity to never give up eventually learns the importance of her very own special and unique qualities.

If you are using the story in the classroom and incorporating it with a tea party, a suggestion is to elicit the help of class buddies. If your school uses the buddy system you know what I mean. An older class of kids are paired with your younger group of kids for various activities. There are two activities I suggest here as ideas towards your classroom resources.

  1. After reading the story together, the older group of children can use it as a writing prompt to write a story perhaps that includes inviting a Leprechaun to tea. You might give them a list of words that they must use in their story. eg: Leprechaun, tea party, rainbow, tree, cup cake. The younger group of children can draw a picture that includes the five suggested items above and try to write a one line description/story. Both groups can come together and read aloud to share their stories.
  2. Have the buddies help make a tea party invitation for the younger child's mum/dad or significant other. Then you can hold a special morning or afternoon tea party with mums or dads included, I'm sure they would be more than happy to help supply the goodies for the tea party.



Here is the template to make the card. The children can decorate the outside with whatever they like or suggestions from you.  I like to leave this open to allow for creativity and imagination. Inside they can write or you can print "Have a cup of tea on me."  In my class I would then sticky tape a tea bag to the inside cover.

My next book in my 'Bradberrie Brother's Alien AdventureBook3_Cover' series will be another great addition to add to your reading list before a tea party. in "Alien Milkshakes" not only are there plenty of laughs to entice the reluctant reader but plenty of interesting edible suggestions and moral dilemmas to discuss over a pot of tea.  "Alien Milkshakes" is coming soon.

Enjoy your tea party, have fun and make lots of memories with your kids.

What book would you read with your kids to encourage a themed tea party?