Looking Back: Dublin Day 2 (Part 1) in Pictures

August 16, 2016 was truly a marvelous day. I took so many pictures though that I need to break Day 2 in Dublin into shorter posts. Today’s post takes me from the hotel to Sweny’s Pharmacy, which is near Trinity College. If you click on one of the pictures below, it will turn into a gallery which you might find easier to view.

Some links if you’d like to learn more:

Ireland 2016: Official Centenary Programme

Sweny’s Pharmacy

21 Westland Row

Jeanie Johnston Famine Museum

Famine Memorial and World Poverty Stone

Custom House

Universal Links on Human Rights 

Merchant Seamen Memorial

St. Andrew’s Church, Westland Row

Samuel Beckett Bridge

Booterstown Nature Reserve

Coming tomorrow: Dublin Day 2, Part 2

*** All photographs that are a part of this gallery were taken by me, Jill Ocone, on August 16, 2016 and are copyrighted. It is illegal to reproduce or to take credit for my intellectual property contained on this post. Thank you for your compliance.


Day 13 of 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016: Nature

If you really know me, you are aware that I have some strange quirks.

Truth be told, I have a LOT of strange quirks.

One of those quirks is that I do not, under any circumstance, like to talk about or hear about a certain subject that is very natural to every single living thing.

The best way I can bring up this subject in a round-about way so I don’t get sick is by calling it….

not number one but the other one:

yes, THAT.

I don’t know why I have such an aversion to THAT, but I have been known to actually vomit after overhearing people talk about it.

When my niece was 4, she asked me to help her go potty. Yeah, it wasn’t just potty, it was the dreaded…..you know. I helped her, and when she was done, quickly rushed her out of the bathroom and proceeded to vomit like a champ.

I can’t even change diapers without becoming nauseous, one of the many reasons I am completely okay with being childless.

And I am not exaggerating.

I mean I literally vomit.

Funny I can talk about vomit no problem, but not THAT.

The source of this issue within me remains unknown. Friends have long speculated that something regarding THAT must have happened when I was little. However, I cannot offer any insight; when I think too hard about it, I will end up vomiting, queasy and sick, thus ruining my day and perhaps my couch in the process.

It’s taking a lot of control over here even as I type this, but I am up for the challenge of writing something outside of my comfort zone.  Plus, this topic is the perfect response to today’s prompt of NATURE.

Let me explain.

Last week, a friend and I visited Batsto Village here in New Jersey, which is a historical site contained within Wharton State Forest. While there, we witnessed something that was interestingly ironic, considering my issues.

We sat in the picnic area, surrounded by trees, to eat lunch.  As we ate, we passed the time by talking and catching up with each other. In the corner of my eye, I noticed movement on the ground to my left. I looked and saw something very small moving along about 20 feet or so from where we were.

Interrupting our conversation, I said, “What is that?” to my friend, and we both got up to check it out.

I thought it was a little mouse or mole or something, but as I got closer, I could see it was two very small things, not just one.

After watching it for a minute, my friend said, “I think it’s a dung beetle.”

And sure enough, that’s what is was.

Of all things, a dung beetle.

Cue the nausea.

He was all black and about the size of a quarter. He was pushing what I will refer to as his “lunch,” which was much bigger than he was. To put it in perspective, it would be like an adult human trying to push an ice cream truck.

Of course, I can’t fully describe his lunch because I’m ready to dry heave. Yes, yes, I know…therapists who might be reading this will hear a “cha-ching!” right here and immediately send me information about how to schedule an appointment.

So here’s this little beetle pushing his lunch.

I’ll be honest: I did feel a little queasy, but at the same time, it was a very interesting process to observe.

He would push, his lunch would roll, he’d stop for a pause. He’d push again, sometimes get flipped over, turn back around, and keep on moving.

This little guy advanced at a pretty good clip. He was a hard worker who let nothing stand in his way. If there was an obstacle, he figured out a way around it. He was on a mission to bring his lunch to….I guess his lair? His home? His cave?

After a few minutes, my friend and I went back to the picnic tables and finished our meal, all the while keeping an eye on the beetle to watch his progress. Then we became distracted by our conversation, and when we looked up again, he was gone, having disappeared into the forest.

This brief encounter with nature taught me a few lessons.

There is a purpose for all of nature’s creatures and nature’s things on this Earth, even THAT. While the idea might make me sick, it illustrates the whole “circle of life” concept.

The little beetle also demonstrated that hard work will pay off, and that it is possible to successfully navigate any obstacle in the way.  I assume this little guy was successful in reaching his destination, the reward of his hard work being his tasty lunch (gag).

Simplicity in nature, friends. Some simple lessons from a simple creature in nature that I’m sure is overlooked more often than observed.

I intentionally did not include a photograph because, well…please excuse me while I go take something to ease my queasiness. 🙂

Something to SEA: A Butterfly Book Giveaway!

CoverHello, friends! Now that it is finally warmer, I would bet that you are busy getting your yard and plants ready for the upcoming season. Every year, I look forward to the arrival of birds and butterflies to my yard, where I have many feeders, host plants, and nectar flowers available for them.

It is critical that birds, bees, and butterflies (especially monarchs) have enough sustainable food and host plants to survive. Each year, the number of bees and monarchs diminish greatly, and humans need to do what they can to help by planting wildflowers or providing feeders.

What better way to bond with nature than by raising your own butterflies? It’s very easy to do. I authored a book titled “Delicate Tapestries: A Step by Step Guide to Raising Eastern Black Swallowtail Butterflies” in 2011.  My photographs document the process of raising the butterflies starting at the egg, through the caterpillar stage and metamorphosis, and then to emergence as a butterfly.  All you need are some parsley plants, a storage tub or aquarium with a screen lid (with very small screen holes), and some empty plastic containers with lids. That’s it! The entire process takes about a month from when the egg is first laid to butterfly, unless the chrysalis is formed after mid-September, in which case the butterfly will overwinter and emerge in the spring.

I also raise monarchs. I transplanted some milkweed along the back of my house a few years ago, and the first thing I love about milkweed is the beautiful smell of the flowers when it blooms. All different kinds of bees are attracted to them, which is good for pollentation. One year the flowers bloomed as early as mid May. This year, however, the plants are just starting to sprout. When the tiny caterpillars appear after the butterflies lay eggs, I’ll transfer them into my aquarium and watch them grow. Unlike the swallowtail caterpillars, which for some reason I don’t like to touch, I love letting the monarch caterpillars crawl around in my hand. If you would like information about how you can raise your own monarchs, check out the Monarch Watch website.

I’ve witnessed the number of monarchs that visit my home drastically diminish over the past few years. In the summer of 2012, I had over 50 caterpillars that became monarchs. Then, we were hit by Superstorm Sandy, which I personally attribute to a lot of the ecological changes around here, especially in regards to the sharp decline in Monarch numbers. The following summer, I only saw one monarch on my butterfly bush, and I only had two caterpillars. In 2014, I had roughly 8, and last summer, I had 17. Hopefully this summer will be a banner Monarch year.  I encourage you to plant butterfly friendly plants and flowers so that you can share in the joys of nature and in helping out our beautiful critters.

In celebration of nature’s wonderful creatures, I am giving away an autographed copy of “Delicate Tapestries” for free.  All you have to do to enter is comment below with your favorite spring or summer tradition. Comments must be posted by 7 PM EST on Monday, May 23. Good luck!

If you are interested in ordering a copy of my book, please visit Amazon or email me at soulseakernj@gmail.com.

Until next time,