Dec 30, 2009

Dan Walsh Knows My Laugh Spot

I've been a fan of Irishman, Dan Walsh's, GarfieldMinusGarfield webcomic for ages; I hate fat orange talking cats and much much prefer reading into the existential angst of Jon Arbuckle in the Garfield-free strips. I sporadically check in on Walsh's other blogs, too; Travors—his personal blog, and Doodlepipski—the blog where he collects a smattering of webcomics purely for my amusement. I popped in for a quick visit this morning, and had a chuckle at these three finds (click to zoom):

Well, we'll do that next year
Doodlepipski VIA Nedroidcomics

Where leprechauns really come from ...
Doodlepipski VIA Space Avalanche

Eat the pudding, eat the pudding, eat the pudding!
VIA Travors

Dec 29, 2009

David Hope: Daybreak Someplace

I was always one to cram the night before the exam so I guess it makes sense that I am frantically trying to cram in the best of the decade right before it ends. I've been rooting through other people's round-ups, finding Irish books I need to read, movies I need to watch, and today, right under my nose (or at least a stone throw's away from my brother's nose at home in Co. Clare), I found a musician I need to heed—David Hope.

As soon as I read he hails from Clare, I downloaded his album, Daybreak Someplace (just in case we're related).

Daybreak Someplace (released Nov 09)
I like the album—it was warm, easy fodder for a frigid cold day here in Brooklyn. My favorite track is a bluesy instrumental number, The Cuckoo's Return, and I also quite like See The Ghost (even more so after I saw the video below where he referred to this song as See the Goat!).

Also, the title track, Daybreak Someplace, is totally worthy of 4AM-drunken-ham-sandwich-sessions. I wouldn't even need to have too much to drink (or have too many onions on my sandwich) to cry at the immigrant notion that it's daybreak somewhere.

I must add though, that I find myself wishing Hope had suffered more as a child.
Don't get me wrong, he has a lovely way with the guitar, a decent folk voice, and YouTube videos show he's a warm and friendly sort with a likeable Brendan Grace (Irish comedian) down-off-the-mountain look about him, but it just feels like his spuds were always peeled for him.
Is it wrong to wish someone would take him back around the Burren on a banger of a bike on a rainy day? I'm thinking soggy socks, potholes, a slow puncture, ancestral whispers, and maybe a little (harmless) dangling of his granny over the Cliffs.
That'd put hair on his chest. And in his lyrics.

I also wish he'd stop singing "at least we knew heaven before we knew hell" and start singing about real people—the Springsteen kind of people now bypassed by Clare's convoluted network of highways. I might write him a song about the night Mary O'Halloran up the road heard the banshee wail as her mother lay dying; or the night after when she was pulling Angela McCarthy's hair as Billy Harty crooned Blue Suede Shoes ...

Anyway, I'm glad I've found David Hope; he'll be one to watch in the New Year.

David Hope's website,, seems to be suspended at the moment, but he's on MySpace and you can find his latest album on eMusic.

Dec 27, 2009

David Kitt's The Big Romance: Best Irish Album of the Decade?

The web, telly, and radio, are flooded with "best of the noughties" type content this weekend, and I'm reading them all knowing I've probably missed a thing or three-hundred the past ten years. Rather than list the required Top Ten albums of the decade, KD over at MP3Hugger (an indie mp3 blog based in Dublin) decided to focus on declaring the Best Irish Album of the Decade. Their pick was The Big Romance by David Kitt.
Now, I can understand feeling I'd missed something if they'd created a Top 100, or even, Top 10 of the Decade, but it seems I really haven't been spending enough time nosing at the window when I'm not familiar with this ONE pick! How lame am I? I've not only never heard of this album, I've never heard of David Kitt either!

Why The Big Romance stole MP3 Hugger's heart and title:
"...this was an album that I happened upon rather than seeking it out. We had decamped to Sydney for a few months and I had found this record shop that was selling ridiculously cheap CD’s and the primary colours of this album just stood out. The songs contained within revealed themselves slowly, the overriding soft focus slowly giving way to low slung melodies and deft instrumentation. The songs work best in the context of the album and as such it can be difficult to pick out an individual effort that would persuade newbies towards its gentle glory. Personal trauma involving the self same romance would soon rob Kitt of his mojo and his subsequent albums have been hit and miss affairs. The Dubliner is just better wired for writing music about bright love rather than its lost equivalent. Small moments rarely sound this good."
Sadly, I didn't just miss this album; I missed it by almost a decade! In my defense, I suppose I wasn't thinking the best Irish album of the decade would be sneakily released the second year of the new bloody decade (and the same year the first cloned cat was born!) Anyway, I'll beat myself up later; right now I need to download, listen to, and LOVE The Big Romance before its big decade ends.

Song from Hope St. (Brooklyn, NY), The Big Romance
Buy The Big Romance
Check out David Kitt's website
David Kitt on MySpace

Dec 18, 2009

Homemade Magazine

Ireland is hopping on the handmade bandwagon it seems with the debut earlier this week of Homemade. It's the pet project of Irish chef, media presenter, and writer, Clodagh McKenna, and, according to the website, it "invites us into Clodagh's kitchen to make delicious homemade foods and be a guest around the table with some of her favorite artisan food producers." She also offers homemaking advice, her top tips for gifting, arts and crafts, interiors, and travel.

I'm kind of surprised she went the magazine-route instead of creating a lifestyle TV series or an online magazine, but as a magazine consumer who finds that many of her favorite magazines have failed or sold their souls, I'm rooting for it. If Homemade keeps it real and attainable (with the required hint of luxury and escape), it'll feed into the public's current recession-encouraged desire/need to make their own food, clothes, gifts, etc. Also, by spotlighting Irish businesses, it'll encourage people to support Irish entrepreneurs and buy Irish—a magazine after my own heart!

I've contacted Clodagh's press rep for more details, and will write more once I have more details and a copy in hand (hint to my sister!), so watch this space!

Dec 16, 2009

Keep Calm and Drink Card

I attended a nutrition workshop last night where our speaker suggested ways to cut back on caffeine intake. It was funny because earlier in the day I had been pondering ways to streamline my tea-drinking process so as to squeeze more caffeine into my day (move my desk into the kitchen? invent a remote-controlled kettle? move to India?). Even worse, I was printing out several copies of this cute—and free!—card from Whisker Graphics, encouraging others to drink, too!
Head over to the Whisker Graphics blog and download your own free copy of this card. Then print it out, add a fancy tea bag, and send it off to a friend in need of a calming cuppa. I'll send one to my mother to tell her to stay calm, have a cup of tea, your Christmas card is coming. One to my sister, who is feeling guilty this season for facilitating a canine suicide (of her mother-in-law's dog) earlier in the year. I'll also deliver one to my friend Jessica who is waiting on British Airways to get a conscience.
Okay, I'll put the kettle on ...

Dec 10, 2009

Jasmine Guinness Clothing Line For Very

Jasmine Guinness, photo by Linda Nylind/

Seems "Guinness" is the word of the week with me this week; can you tell I need a night out? I was reading the Irish Independent earlier on today and saw that Jasmine Guinness, heiress to the Guinness fortune and supermodel (all-you-can-drink Guinness and good looks too? ugh), has just debuted her own clothing line for I just checked it out and it's vintage-inspired and hugely wearable. I'm especially loving these pieces:

Pity Guinness didn't model the line herself, or at least put them on a woman with a bit of meat on her bones. She says she designs for "real women," and I'd imagine these vintagey designs would look a lot better on a real —read: booby-and-bottomy—woman.
Very does not as yet ship overseas, which is not very nice at all. For now, I will have to settle for window-shopping virtually, or shipping that perfect little black dress to my sister (who will probably swipe it for herself).

Dec 8, 2009

I Guinness NY!

I had a lovely pint of Guinness last Saturday. It was made all the better by the fact that it was the middle of the day, it was cold outside and the bar was warm and cozy, and my bartender took care, pride, and time pouring my lovely pint. It was like arriving at a doctor's office on a day when all the rest of his appointments have been cancelled, and the good doctor—in a fit of nostalgia for the days when he actually cared—decides to sit and chat with you, give you a thorough going over with tests your insurance doesn't cover, and tells you authoritatively that you do not have, and never will have, an infectious disease.
If I'd had a camera with me, I'd have taken a picture of that pint. I've been thinking about it a lot since, not because I'm an alcoholic, but because I've been awakened to the fact that I drink a lot of mediocre Guinness. There are (roughly) gazillions of self-proclaimed Irish bars in New York City, and yet a decent pint of Guinness is a rarity.

Seems someone should rise to the occasion of rating them.
Okay, I twisted my arm.

I've wanted to document my impressions of Manhattan's Irish bars, and the quality of their Guinness, for ages now, if only so I could confidently tip off visiting Irish friends and family (who inevitably want to hang out in an Irish bar while here!) It seems I've found myself a resolution for 2010, and one I'm actually eager to get a head start on!
I'll take Manhattan, one pint at a time. Watch this space...

Dec 2, 2009

The Buy/By Irish Etsy Gift Guide

It's the first week of December and I've already missed Christmas. See, to send gifts and cards to family and friends in Ireland and Australia before Christmas, I need to buy, wrap, and ship them all last week. That, or I vigorously knock snow boots with a certain red-suited older man in the delivery business to avoid express shipping rates.
I can't time-travel, and I won't get in the backseat of Santa's sleigh, so I'm going to make the most of Etsy's Shop Local tool! Thanks to this handy little tool, I can find vendors in any country (in this case, Ireland), and then have my gifts shipped directly to the recipient. I'll save on shipping costs, save the local economy, save the planet, and save Christmas, too!

Here are a few of my favorite gift-picks from Irish Etsy vendors:
Gorgeous jewelry from Black Lotus Design (free shipping worldwide)

Sweet felted bears with gems from Ememem (previously featured here)

Beautiful sterling silver rings, earrings, and pendants from Made For An Angel

Knit and hand-felted berets, brooches, gloves, and jewelry from Crafts 2 Cherish

Precious pocket art mirrors from Meluseena

Affordable bling from Funky Blink

Sweet handknit mittens from Love Lambie (previously featured here)

Folk art ornaments and greeting cards from Lady Bird Art

Delicate but edgy jewelry from Clodagh Molloy

Wild and interesting felt scarves from Feltfieltrofilc

As you can see, there's no shortage of unique and beautiful gifts in the Irish corner of Etsy for either side of the Atlantic. Now to get my friends and family to shop this list for me!

Nov 28, 2009

Love Olive

I came across the Love Olive brand while slip-jigging the blogosphere this morning, and while I don't love olives, I do love Love Olive's design and packaging. I usually kick the olives out of the way of the cheese on my Greek salad, but the gorgeous earthy olive colors and textures, and vibrant typography of Love Olive's packaging looks good enough to eat (that I'd be tempted to try the contents, too!)

Based in Glenavy, Co. Antrim, Love Olive is a new brand for Ireland's biggest olive wholesaler, supplying the finest olives and Mediterranean foods to trade, and directly through their retail outlets in Derry and Dublin. Love Olive's daunting mission is to educate the notoriously unadventurous Irish palate:

"For years my Love Olive colleagues and I have heard people up and down the country say, ‘I don’t like olives, they’re awful’, when we’ve tried to tempt them at various farmers’ markets. Nine times out of ten, these good folk have never even tried an olive and have their minds fixed on not liking this most fantastic, versatile and healthy food. Being people who love a challenge, and who believe passionately about the quality of our product, we don’t let this deter us.
Quite simply, we believe that we have an olive for everyone, and we just need people to bring an open mind and a willing heart to the taste table."

I wish Love Olive was selling their goods online so I could stock up on some beautifully packaged jars of gourmet olives to give as unique Irish hostess gifts this Holiday season. I'll definitely be looking for them next time I'm home ... or sending my sister out to the shops and post office this week!

For tips on olive-loving and store locations, visit Love Olive's website

Nov 21, 2009

What to Wear: Ireland-Appropriate Shoes

My brother was telling me yesterday that my hometown of Ennis, in Co. Clare, is flooded. The River Shannon burst its banks and schools, stores, and most roads into the town are closed. Apparently half the country is under water; A state of emergency was declared in Cork City, due to widespread flooding, and the Irish Farmers Association revealed that farmers in the West are experiencing the worst conditions in 20 years. This is a cruel physical drowning for a country already drowning in debt and despair.
Sigh. Not to make little of this weather-drama, but it does remind that you should always pack a pair of practical shoes for a trip to Ireland. Now, I would never waste valuable packing-space on a pair of bulky wellies, because, while I am typically guaranteed rain on a visit home, it doesn't usually flood as though staged for the release of Roland Emmerich's 2012. Besides, it's easy to pick up a cheap pair of classic black wellies/waders/a dinghy there if you need them.

I would pack these cute and waterproof short "Tatum" booties from Keep. They're made from a DWR (durable water repellent) canvas with a natural gum rubber sole. I could totally see myself wearing the fetching purple pair in all weather—here in Brooklyn and at home in Ireland.

Find them (on sale for $40!) at Keep Company

Nov 18, 2009

Spotlight: Kate + Ava Collective

With Irish people it's generally any excuse for a party; with Irish women it's any excuse for a party dress. I'm not sure how many new party dresses will be added to the wardrobe this year given the depressing state of the Irish economy, but for the sake of the Irish fashion industry and young labels like Kate + Ava, I'm hoping Irish women will at least decide to drown this long year's sorrows away in typical Irish style, supporting homegrown designers, and sparing no tinsel!

If I was looking to splurge on an Irish designer right now, I'd shop Dublin-based, Kate + Ava's Autumn/Winter 09 collection. Established in 2006 by Kate Reilly and Ava Cassidy, Kate + Ava presents the Irish woman with feminine, tailored designs in rich, luxuriant fabrics like wools, silks, and jerseys. They cater to a confident and stylish woman, who knows what suits her, and prefers to invest in quality, classic pieces that will stand the test of time.

The collection ranges in price from €200 for shirts and skirts, €450 for coats and evening wear, and €300-390 for most dresses.

Dear Santa; when you are flying over Ireland, please swing by Kate + Ava and pick up this
gorgeous menswear-inspired black dress and chic little black-and-white number, too! xoxo J

Kate +Ava
Online stockists: Divine, Seagreen, and SuzanBelle.

Nov 13, 2009

They Must Be Irish: Isobel And Cleo

For a small country, Ireland has a very big head. See, we believe that behind every good person is a great Irish granny... it's cocky, but it's also usually true (Barack Obama, Princess Diana, Muhammad Ali, John Wayne, etc.).
Maybe that will explain why I was so forward as to write to Scotland-based designer, Isobel and Cleo, to force her to confront her Irish roots/confirm me as a long-lost cousin. I mean, how could the maker of such truly exceptional high-drama couture knitwear garments and accessories not be Irish?

These knitted fringe high waist Irish linen trousers, are begging to be flung wildly about to an Irish jig. And how could you not have passionate Irish blood–or at least, gallons of strong Irish tea—coursing through your veins to design such a high-drama, high-fashion, and yet, highly-practical jacket like the "Utterly Intense and Time Consuming Cropped Layered Rectangle Jacket," worn above with the Irish Jig pants. (Love that the detachable hand-knit fringe collar can be worn separately as a scarf.)Sigh! The elegant and feminine angora racerback tank ... the funky knit tights ... the woolly-wonderful knit shirt-dresses ... the inspired "Granny 'Fro Balaclava!"

Pray tell Isobel and Cleo, do you have an Irish Granny?

"Unfortunately I am not of any kind of Irish descent that I am aware of, BUT I am a big fan of all things Irish; I work part time at an Irish pub, lived near a city full of Irish descendants in the states—Boston, I'm ALWAYS falling in love with Irish boys, and one of my closest friends in Scotland just got engaged to an Irish guy!" —Isobel and Cleo
I'm clinging to "that I am aware of"...and lining up all single males in the family!

Note to boring Irish knitwear Industry: employ/adopt Isobel and Cleo now before they take you down!

Isobel and Cleo's Shop

Nov 11, 2009

And Now, Over to the Weather-Desk

Sunday was a glorious day, made all the more glorious by rust-colored leaves filtering the sunshine. Cold breezes had introduced themselves and announced their intentions earlier in the week, so this warm brilliant day was a gift from the Samhain gods, a parting embrace from summer. I found myself sitting outside on a coffee-shop bench with a few hours to kill, and a cup of tea so watery that my barista had surely just waved the overpriced tea-bag at my cup of tepid water.
My bench was on a busy corner where many paths crossed; hurried moms and worried moms, hipsters and not-so-hip'sisters, and locals returning from morning worship at the church, mall, or gym. I was struck by how hurried all connections were—by the lack of weather in their conversations. How-are-you greetings were answered with elevator-pitch responses with no pause for air or weather...

"How am I? tired – party last night – organic cider – polluted hangover – you?" "Bloated – two bagels – in denial – gluten intolerant – sigh!"

...Before I knew it they were talking bowel movements.

It seems all conversations so quickly degenerate to bowel movements (or shite) these days, and I've decided it's because we don't stop to talk about the weather first. When I talk to my mother over the phone on a Sunday, we always establish weather conditions first, to set the scene. It makes me feel closer to see what she sees outside her window, and warms us to our conversation. And my grandmother always devotes at least a paragraph in every letter to the week's weather—even more if there have been any juicy weather-related deaths.
I miss talking about the weather, and not just the perfunctory "I'm freezing" gripes. I miss, "that wind would put hair on your chest," "great weather for ducks," "frigid" "brutal," and "bitter" cold, and "treacherous road conditions" (with half an inch of snow!)
See, talking about the weather makes you a nicer person. If you stop and sniff the air, ponder the chances of precipitation, classify and categorize the clouds, and quantify the freshness of the breeze, there's a good chance that instead of competing for most inflated innards, you (and the person you crossed paths with) will instead notice the beauty around all weather.
Give it a go!

"Isn't that a glorious day? Are we in for a heatwave would you say?"

Nov 10, 2009

Irish Farmers Take It Off For 2010 Calendar

I have a feeling it's going to be an off year for sales of calendars like Irish Castles, Irish Cottages, and Irish Pub Fronts, and I wouldn't be surprised if sales of NYC Firefighters 2010 suffer, too! Why? Promising 100% Irish Beef, The 2010 Irish Farmers Calendar is now on sale, and it features some strapping Irish Farmers strutting their pasty white bellies and muck-covered wellies to support Bóthar, an organization that gives farm animals to needy families in third-world countries.
These lads might be more interested in the breed composition of the Irish sheep population, but they have bred a new definition of sexy with their wax-free, tan-free, and ab-free physiques, and smouldering sensitive-with-a-shovel looks!

Mr. February sips tea in a meadow

Mr. March listens to his iPod in the barn

Mr. April checks on the latest liver fluke forecast in the Farmer's Journal

Mr. September serenades a sow in the hay

While our three December lads set off to turn turf and fetch the cows

Great stocking stuffer, office-gift, or gift for the Ireland-lover in your life.
Get your calendar at

Oct 31, 2009

A More Authentic Hallow's Eve Experience In 4 Easy Steps!

Neighbors blow away real leaves and decorate their doorways with fake leaves; kids are yellow-bused off to pristine pumpkin patches; meanies turn their lights off so kids won't ring their bells; greenies shake their heads at plastic costumes (while kids shake their heads back at their sugar-free "treats"), and Martha-mummies attack any blank surface with orange frosting and glitter guns. Yes, it's Halloween, but it looks nothing like the Halloween I'd like to be celebrating.
Call it recession backlash, nostalgic flashbacks, or just plain old age, but I'm longing for a less-plastic and more authentic Halloween experience this year. If you’re feeling the same, here are four easy ways to scare up a little authenticity this (or maybe, next) Halloween:

1. Light the fires
All-night bonfires have long been an integral part of the Samhain end-of-harvest festival celebration, and they played a huge part in my childhood Halloweens. In my village (sidenote: rural Ireland—like rural Africa—has villages but the medicine man is known as a bartender in ours), kids gathered discarded tires, furniture, and anything flammable for weeks leading up to Halloween, and then everyone gathered together to reach and roar as the flames reached and roared out into the dark skies. I loved that it was fire, big and fierce and exciting and angry, and that young and old gathered together around it. I was also aware that it acted as a guiding light to the souls of our dear departed, who were free on this night to return to visit with us. I didn't love the idea of bringing our lonely ghost-relatives up to date on Coronation Street, so I focused on the belief that the flames also acted as a deterrent to evil-meaning spirits.

I can't really light a bonfire in my Brooklyn backyard, but I could get a fire-pit to ward off wayward spirits...

2. Swing some apples

Apples don't rate highly in my food pyramid most days, never mind actually making it out of the fruitbowl on Halloween (unless they're coated in caramel), but they used to be a big part of our Halloween games as kids. We hung apples on string from a height, and then, with hands tied behind our backs, we had to try to take a bite out of a swinging apple. Harder than it sounds! We also put apples in big bowls of cold water, and again with hands tied behind our backs, had to bob to try and get a bite. The apple peel game was played mostly by teenagers or unmarried women; to predict the initials of a future spouse or true love, an apple had to be peeled in one continuous unbroken peel, and when the peel was tossed over her shoulder it would fall in the
shape of the initial of her true love. For some reason it always spelled out "Gerard Butler" for me...

3. Tell a tall tale
Photo of Eddie Lenihan by Tony Murphy

When looking for authentic Irish tales of fairies (as opposed to fairytales), historical tales, devil stories, accounts of saints, of monsters, ogres, giants, ghosts and more, I always turn to Ireland's most precious resource, folklorist and seanchaí, Eddie Lenihan. Lenihan's a living database, a master storyteller, and a prolific writer. He has a wild head of hair, a head filled with wild and lively stories, and a mission to preserve and carry on the ancient tradition of storytelling. I turned to him this week for a little meat and character to add to my Halloween brew. In his The Devil is an Irishman collection, I found the story of "Jacko o'the Lantern," about Clare farmer Jack Murt who was granted three wishes by a spectral figure in a graveyard, and then entered into a decades-long battle of wits with the Devil. He outsmarted the Devil several times but was a little too smart for his own good, and for a finish found himself trapped in a half-existence, just a ghostly light wandering the backroads of Clare and Ireland. It's not your typical spooky story but it's a refreshing break from the gorey Halloween movies on TV, and it's full of Irish superstition, character, and humor.
Note: you can hear Eddie Lenihan tell a story over on his site.

4. Attack a brack
I've been working at a decent barm brack for a few weeks, struggling with mushy middles and a mushy conscience, too, but I'm so glad now that I have a traditional barm brack for Halloween. It's an easy bread to bake, and when you add in the pea, the coin, the ring, the cloth, and the stick—all wrapped in pieces of parchment paper and tucked into the loaf before baking—it makes for some fun eating. Kids of all ages enjoy getting a slice of fruity bread along with a slice of their future.

Fire, apples, stories, and brack; suddenly it looks—and feels—like Oíche Shamhna!