When an idyllic vacation goes wrong…

iwasonlyjokingcheck out the restaurants,

go shopping or dancing ! Don’t forget to have fun!

It’s all up to you !

The Castle Lady

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A Miraculous Legacy

A Book Review
on The Woman I Wanted to Be
by Diane von Furstenberg

DvFDvFAs far back as my teen years I remember being in awe of fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg and her likeness to my mother. She was born in Belgium the day before New Year’s Day of 1947 and sworn in as an American citizen the summer of 2002 while the ash from 9/11 was still settling and being swept off the streets of New York City. Prior to that she had held a green card for 30 years so her naturalization of citizenship to the United States was a hard won victory among many in her life. Her natural beauty never betrayed the confidence of a struggle for independence and freedom in nearly every sector of her life. She attained her goal after many years of doing everything her way and the American way, without compromising her artistic individuality or being available to her family.
What most impressed me about her life story are the circumstances she was born out of and how her life and her mother’s became a personal triumph. Even from the beginning, when she was born to Lily (a Belgium native- who had somehow survived the Holocaust right out of Auschwitz) her life was a miracle. Lily was engaged to be married to Diane’s father, Leon Halfin, before being separated from him and was carried off in a train to Auschwitz. Like many other Jewish captives, even though she had no idea whether she would ever see them again, she wrote a note to her parents and threw it off the train. Many Jews did not survive their notes. A photograph of it is in a picture section of Diane’s book and it is very touching to read in French or in English, as Diane wrote a translation of it in her book. Before she was reunited with her fiancé and married, Lily had lost all her body weight down to her bones. Diane was born not long after, within eighteen months of her release from the concentration camp.
Without telling you all the details of the book I do want to say how enlightening I found Diane’s very engaging narrative and how her determination matched that of her mother. Early on her mother quoted, “Fear is not an option.” This theme runs throughout her book and is a focal point in her life along with loving relationships and the empowerment she gathered in her chosen field of fashion. The truest and strongest mentor of her life was Angelo Ferretti, an Italian textile tycoon who hired her as a debutant. She wrote, “I don’t know what my future would have been without the generosity and support of Ferretti.”
Although Diane eventually got heavily into branding and diversification in her offerings to the public her signature fashion piece started out with the wrap dress she created and it has been her most lucrative and longest lasting item. Her most recent re-launch centers on this very same concept in dresses and it will certainly be her signature look and legacy when others are still searching for their niche.
In the 70s, where she quoted, ” Life was fun if you were young, pretty and successful”, she took off on her basic concept, traveling the United States, promoting her line and gathering momentum by diversifying into other fashion products. Tatiana perfume was the first touted designer fragrance, named after her daughter and was an unforgettable scent. It was popular for decades. There was also make-up and she personally did make-overs on women when she traveled from mall to mall. When QVC and HSN became popular she revitalized her line and jumped right into the shopping phenomenon which is still going strong after more than two decades. She was among the pioneers who made it happen.
An obvious turning point in her early life was when she landed a prince in marriage- Egon von Fürstenberg, and her love for him stayed steadfast even though she changed through the years in artistic growth and personal exploration. The Prince was another spring board in life which she was not able to hang onto but no fault is laid any where in the book and even though I don’t personally agree with the more free wheeling type of life she embraced in his stead, I do admire a lot of the things she wrote in her book about what she learned about life and love. Her words about her mother in her later years and about all her loved ones show that she did the best of her ability in trying to do right by everyone and still hang onto her personal goals and dreams.
On the subject of aging beauty she is quite honest and courageous in saying, “It is no longer about looking beautiful but about feeling beautiful and fulfilled.” A good deal of what she has written shows that she has embraced the proper priorities and it well showed when she spoke to a High School Graduating class quoting Margaret Thatcher. It was rephrased from the example on my October 10, 2012 entry, titled, A quote from The Iron Lady:

Watch your thoughts for they become words.
Watch your words for they become actions.
Watch your actions for they become habits.
Watch your habits for they become your character.
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.

From page 39 she says, To inspire others to take their lives in their hands, be their best friends and go for it fearlessly. Also, she wrote, Love is about relationships but the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. That one really resonated for me.
In giving advice on page 57 she wrote, Lies are toxic. They are the beginning of misunderstandings, complications and unhappiness. To practice truth is not always easy but as with all practices it becomes a matter of habit. Truth is cathartic. Truth… simplifies life and love.
When recollecting her bittersweet relationship to the father of her children she wrote, Parting ways does not mean erasing someone entirely from your life. A relationship can evolve and be nurtured but in a different way. Not an easy task but as anything meaningful, well worth it.
The most telling part of the book is when she was approached in more recent years with getting her financial picture in order by her son. It is not easy to be reproached by your child, especially when one feels that they have done well in raising their offspring. With Diane, she weathers the criticism like a pro and admits that in business she did… “All of this without a business plan, without any market analysis, without a focus group, without a publicist without an advertising or branding agency.” She relied on her artistic skills alone and let the business run itself. Many people do this and are successful. I have myself always quoted: Do what you know how to do best. The money will follow. I also ran my own business for seven years without a business plan and it worked because I was doing what I knew best. A business plan puts extra focus on progress and I have learned without it that you can only go so far. I found that out and so did Diane. The business work is always best in the hands of the experts.
A lot of history, love, advice and determination shows in Diane’s story which shines like a diamond. The Woman I Wanted to Be will enthrall you if you are looking for a realistic but adventurous fairy tale. Diane’s legacy will be not only her wrap dress but her extraordinarily romantic life.




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Heart of a Champion

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.
I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty,
believe in them,
and try to follow where they lead.
-Louisa May Alcott

To try for a lofty goal is often considered by the world to be fodder of a dreamer. We are often not viewed as being practical, wise or normal. Frustration for the person who wants to make a difference in the world can be immense. One who senses that he/she can achieve great things, if given a chance, needs to be well-supported with encouragement and morale but often can be considered to be living in a fantasy world and abused with disrespect, downright discouragement and ridicule. Those who are the encouragers say we must simply turn our heads and disregard the negativity, spurning all the nay-saying as jealousy and envy. I also believe that people who will ‘stomp on a dream’ (like Frank Sinatra sang) are cowards who spend most of their lives living in shadows and aimless pursuits. They only wish they had the nerve it takes to get out there and take some risks.
I have found more stumbling blocks than this while I have been quietly working at the business of researching and writing about castles. I could write a full length book about the struggle of this pursuit and I’m sure one day I’ll do just that- but in the interim I will be continuing on with my dream until I’m ready to pursue a publisher who I think can handle my project the way I envisioned it from the start. No compromise. I never really thought that when I started, I would get as far as I have. My passion for castles started so young and I was only able to actively work on this book when I was financially able to just concentrate my life on this work. It has gone beyond a passion and become a full-blown quest which I’ll never give up. It’s that strong.
Let me be your encourager today. What is it that you think about when you’re walking to school, driving to work or just mowing the lawn? Where does your mind wander every time you have a chance? You have a passion deep inside you for something that was planted there by God. Everyone does. If you do not pursue it and let it remain in your head as if only a daydream you will become the jailer of your own mind. It may not seem like it now but it will turn into your worst nightmare if you only let it sit there and never do anything with it. Your passion is there for a reason and it would only be unattainable if you give up and only play with it as if it was a toy and not reality. Only you can make it a reality. Further, you are the only one who can make it happen for you.
Learn to prioritize and put your dream at the top of the list- not the bottom. Decide how much time you can feasibly set aside to work on your dream and make sure you do that every day. (Almost every other activity and surprise events will attempt to steal this time from you. Do your level best to guard that time and keep it.) Make sacrifices that you can to make way for your dream but don’t preclude people in your life who support your dream. They will keep you on track but detractors you can set aside. They will get it eventually.
My last words will set you up to make an inroad for your dreams and aspirations. The heart of a champion will always strive to achieve things greater than they perceive themselves. Don’t get in your own way but please don’t forget that you’re only human. Sometimes your greatness will fail you but you cannot afford to fail you. Take that one minute you have left to forgive what you thought was unforgivable. Learn to forgive yourself. Don’t give up.

Kissing the hearts of champions all over the world,
The Castle Lady

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Summer time is here…


Whereveryou want to go…





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In restricting certain freedoms

you gain others…


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Avant Charlie Hebdo- Le flashmob des Prodiges

It’s official. Miracles still happen amidst the fray. Check this out:


Only in France ?


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Odes for the Angels

Blessings from above often come in the form of angels from on high so I thought I’d take a moment to honor those who have been instrumental in turning my tides, towing me here and there, saving my skin and giving me the right words at exactly the right moment. Praise God for angels! What would we do without them? – The Castle Lady

angels_fiddlingAngels encourage us by guiding us onto a path that will lead to happiness and hope.
– Andy Lakey, artist

where e’er we go
attend our steps
whatever betide.
With watchful care their charge defend
and evil turn aside.

– Charles Wesley

Ideas sAngel voices,
ever singing round thy throne of light,
angel harps forever ringing,
rest not day or night,
thousands only live to bless thee,
and confess thee, Lord of might !
-Unknown poet

The best Jazz sounds like angels laughter. – Evelyn Wallace


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Florinda and Yoringal

456560A Bros. Grimm fairy tale has typical elements of castles, witches and magic spells but quite a few, in the original German, were much darker and gruesome than would have been considered appropriate for children in the past or even in the present! A new anthology was published last year by Princeton University Press, freshly translated by Jack Zipes from the original text and is packed with these raw tales. This comprehensive book will definitely appeal to adult readers hooked on reading fairy tales or watching them on T.V.   (i.e. ABC’s Once upon a Time or Into the Woods) .

9780867888317In comparing the stories in this new book with one of my old books which is nicely illustrated by Annie-Claude Martin, I noticed these very anomalies have an honestly ribald nature much like thrillers of today. I decided to put this tale up because I thought it was particularly unique, as Grimm’s tales go, keeping in mind the appropriateness for adult and child alike. My title uses the names given for the main characters from my old book but in the Zipes’ version the names are Jorinda and Jorginel and starts on p. 127…

Once upon a time there was an old castle in the middle of a great, dense forest. An old woman lived there all by herself; and she was a powerful sorceress. During the day she turned herself into a cat or a night owl but in the evening she would return to her normal human form. She had the ability to lure game and birds, which she would slaughter and then cook or roast. If any man came within a hundred steps of the castle, she would cast a spell over him, so that he wouldn’t be able to move from the spot until she broke the spell. If an innocent maiden came within her magic circle, she would change her into a bird and stuff her into a wicker basket. Then she would carry the basket up to a room in her castle where she had well over seven thousand baskets with rare birds of this kind.
Now, once there was a maiden named Jorinda, who was more beautiful than any other maiden in the kingdom. She was betrothed to a handsome youth named Joringel. During the time before their marriage, they took great pleasure in each other’s company. One day they went for a walk in the forest so they could be alone and talk intimately with one another.
“Be careful,” Joringel said, “that you don’t go too close to the castle.”
At dusk the sun shone brightly through the tree trunks and cast its light on the dark green of the forest. The turtledoves were singing mournfully in the old beech trees and at times Jorinda wept. Then she sat down in the sunshine and sighed and Joringel sighed too. They became very sad as if they were doomed to die and when they looked around them they became confused and didn’t know how to get home. The sun was still shining half above and half behind the mountains. When Joringel looked through the bushes and saw the wall of the old castle not very far away, he became so alarmed that he was nearly frightened to death, while Jorinda sang:

“Oh, my bird, with your ring of red,
sitting and singing your tale of woe!
You tell us now that the poor dove is dead.
You sing your tale of woe- oh-oh, oh-oh !”

Just then, as Joringel looked at Jorinda, she was turned into a nightingale singing “oh-oh, oh-oh!”
A night owl with glowing eyes flew around her three times and each time it cried, “To-whoo ! To-whoo! To-whoo!”
Witch_YoringalJoringel couldn’t budge. He stood there like a stone unable to weep, to talk or to move hand or foot. When the sun was about to set, the owl flew into a bush and then immediately returned as a haggard old woman, yellow and scrawny, with large red eyes and a crooked nose that almost touched her chin with its tip. She muttered something to herself, caught the nightingale and carried it away in her hand. Joringel was still unable to speak nor could he move from the spot. The nightingale was gone. Soon the woman came back and said with a muffled voice, “Greetings, Zachiel. When the moon shines into the basket, let him loose, Zachiel, just at the right moment.”
Then, Joringel was set free and he fell on his knees before the woman and begged her to give Jorinda back to him but she said he would never get her back again and went away. Joringel shouted. He wept, he moaned, but it was all in vain. “Oh, now what’s to become of me ?”
Joringel went off and eventually came to a strange village, where he tended sheep for a long time. He often went around and around the castle and always kept his distance. Finally, he dreamed one night that he had found a flower as red as blood and in the middle of it was a pearl. He plucked the flower and went with it to the castle: everything that he touched with the flower was released from the magic spell. He also dreamed that he managed to regain his Jorinda with the flower.
When he awoke the next morning, he began searching all over the mountains and valleys for the flower in his dream. He searched for nine days and early on the ninth day he found a flower as red as blood. In its middle was a large dewdrop as big as the finest pearl. He carried this flower day and night until he reached the castle. When he came to within a hundred steps of the castle, he didn’t become spellbound but was able to get to the gate. Overjoyed by that, Joringel touched the gate with the flower and it sprang open. So he entered, crossed the courtyard and listened for the sound of birds. WitchFinally, he heard them and went toward the room where the sorceress was feeding the birds in their seven thousand baskets. When she saw Joringel, she became angry, very angry. She began berating him and spitting poison and gall at him, but she could only come within two feet of him and he paid no attention to her. Instead, he went and examined the baskets with the birds. Since there were hundreds of nightingales, he didn’t know how he’d be able to find his Jorinda again. While he was examining the baskets, he noticed that the old woman had stealthily picked up one of them and was heading toward the door. Quick as a flash he ran over and touched the basket with the flower and immediately thereafter, he touched the old woman as well. Now she could no longer use her magic and consequently Jorinda appeared before him. She threw her arms around his neck and was just as beautiful as before. After Joringel had turned all the other birds into young women, he went home with his Jorinda and they lived together in happiness for a long time.

On the wings of doves everywhere,

King of the Jews ~ Holy One of IsraelThe Castle Lady

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The following poem was written by my good friend and fellow poet Leona. We met Mom'sDayon the internet when Microsoft had their own blog forum which was called Live Spaces. Eventually we exchanged books- my book of poetry Seasons of the Heart and hers, titled: Out of the Starting Gate. We have been the best of cyber pals ever since. We have very different backgrounds and are distinctly different types of people but the wonderful aspect of our association is that we share a love of writing and poetry in total equality and enjoyment. I am presenting this gem of Leona’s in honor of mothers everywhere. Here’s to a wonderful abiding friendship through thick and thin:


I have stood the test of time.

Once I lived a life of beauty,
sunrises excited me, sunsets comforted me.
Each morning I rose to greet a new day,
with outstretched arms reaching for heaven,
giving thanks to God for my magnificence.

I have survived through season after season.
Hence, ravages of weather brand every inch of my being,
neglect hastened my demise,

ignorance imprisons me.
Yet I stand, with outstretched arms reaching for heaven,
giving thanks to God for my endurance.

Mothers_Spec_DayStill I stand, though forgotten abused and forlorn
waiting to once again greet the sunrise,
to slumber peacefully in the sunset,
to serve a purpose other than despair,
with outstretched arms reaching for heaven,
giving thanks to God for my redemption.

August 3, 2012  © by Leona G. Shankle

Mothers_Day_15 from

The Castle Lady

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It’s a KO !

Run_4_RosesIt’s that time of year again. The Kentucky Derby is in full swing. Josh Groban just finished singing The Star Spangled Banner and this year It’s a Knockout is in the running to win along with American Pharaoh who is on the top of the leader board and OchoOchoOcho also is looking pretty good out there !


Kentucky Derby_2 If it’s not possible for you to be anywhere near Churchill Downs to watch the race today you have a little bit of time to get on the telly and put in your bets and watch !

    Good luck all !  



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