Sep 29, 2010

Spotlight: Crafts2Cherish

The other day I was distracting myself from the countdown to my brother's new baby with cute little baby hats. It worked in that I didn't think about my brother's baby for a day or two, but then, that's because all I could think about was producing a few hat-wearing babies of my own ... because the hats were that cute! 
Today I am shaking myself back to reality by looking at Crafts2Cherish's gorgeous knit hats for adults. See, you have to be baby-free to wear such chic caps—knit lovelies are a choking/chewing/drooling hazard, and let's face it, you need at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep + 1 1/2 hours of daydreaming  time + peace of mind to be able to carry off serene felted flowers in chic knit caps.

I've been a fan of the the heavenly hats of Crafts 2 Cherish for a while now, but when I checked  in on the C2C Etsy shop this morning, I was completely smitten with all their recent knittin'. Love, love, love all their delicate felted chokers, rings, brooches, and necklaces, as well as their gloves and chunky, knit scarves and cowls.

It worked; I'm so over babies, phew! Though, I can't stop thinking it'd be fun to get (re)married so that I could outfit myself and my bridal party in (Vera Wang and) these delicate pretties ...

Sep 27, 2010

Potato-Pohtahtoh Tomato-Tohmahtoh Gratin

I'm a bit of a Mrs. Potato Head today: I wrote about updating my potato mashing, storing, and peeling tools over on Found It Loved It and now I'm obsessed—obsessed I tell you!—with finding new potato-focused recipes.

I just came across this Potato Tomato Gratin over on Gus & Other Things, and you can be sure I will be making it as soon as I can find a casserole dish as pretty, and worthy, as the lovely orange one in G&OT's photo/kitchen. 

I'd love to find a vintage casserole dish to display this gratin in all its glory, though, it will likely be a case of any pot in a storm this evening. Let's be honest, with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and cream, it's not going to be sitting in the dish for very long anyway! If you need some Monday evening comfort food, you can find the recipe here.

Babies Republic

My brother and his wife are due their first baby in a few weeks and if I could find a current picture of the two of them I'd plaster it here, and all over the internet, with instructions to whisper "Push!" if you spot them on your travels. See, my brother and his wife are both laid-back and nonchalant, easy-going and ah-let's-have-a-cup-of-tea-first (seriously, I can so see my sister-in-law saying this to her midwife upon notice that the baby is crowning), and so there's a very good chance that they'll be in no general rush to deliver me a new niece or nephew and that said new niece or nephew will also be in no general rush to arrive on schedule. 
I'm beside myself for my big brother to become a big daddy, and—according to my doctor's snippy receptionist—they don't give you an epidural for that, so I'm keeping myself distracted with some breathing and shopping exercises ...

These sweet and delicious little knit hats (and baby models) from Dublin knitter-extraordinaire, Babies Republic, have me oohing and aahing, sighing and swooning, and even pushing, too ... not only for this new little baby to arrive but for them to get started on the next one!

Sep 22, 2010

Tea and a Thought: Crafting a Good Education

My son's friend is being sent to Albania for High School, in part because he was unhappy with the school he chose here, but also because his parents—like most snobby immigrants (Irish included)—feel he'll have a superior education in their native country. While I'm bummed for my son that he will lose a friend, I'm secretly delighted that my threats of deportation and exile will finally have some weight (they'll think twice now before eating the last cookie in the pack!)
I have friends and family members who have moved back to Ireland to school their children, I suppose thinking 'better the devil you know than the devil you don't', but I've never worried that my kids would have an inferior educational experience in New York City, and—touch wood—they haven't. There are things I love (diversity, choice of schools, access to some of the most amazing museums and cultural/educational institutions in the world, less rain while I'm waiting at pick-up), and things I don't love (obsessive parents, obsessive testing, obsessive parents obsessing over testing, and teaching to tests—but maybe that's everywhere now). I also don't love that perpetual New York City budget cuts have meant a shift away from the arts; sadly, arts programs in schools are always the first to suffer here when belts are tightened.

So, when I read a press release this morning about the Crafts Council of Ireland's new initiative—CRAFTed: Learning Skills for Life—to teach crafts to primary school children, I thought that my kids could do a lot worse than be exiled to Ireland for an education. I also thought, therein lies the difference. 

I'd imagine that fiscal belt tightening in Ireland is causing severe circulation problems at the moment, and yet, somehow, there is the will and the way to institute an arts program that recognizes the connection between education, creativity, and innovation—and nurtures it at an early age. In association with regional Education Centers and The National Museum of Ireland, CRAFTed will bring highly skilled craftspeople into the classrooms of thirty-six schools across the country to build skills, develop competencies, and support creative learning, with hands-on experience in traditional crafts like knitting, sewing, ceramics, jewelry-making, and wood-turning.  
Of course, it's not country-wide, and it's only once a week for five weeks for the current academic year, but it's better than nothing, and its heart—and head—is in the right place. Worst case scenario the program will be short lived but will at least spark new interest in 'old' skills; best case—it will be implemented long term and nationwide, and will lead to a new generation of creative, innovative, and skilled workers. 

Now, if only someone could set aside a little funding for money management classes ...

Sep 20, 2010

Emé Vandal A/W 2010

This is what my hair looked like this morning when I was standing outside my front door, waiting for a locksmith. I wish I'd had my camera so that you could see for yourself that when "styled" with sweats, a t-shirt, and blue, bare feet, it's not quite as chic. 
Of course, I also wish I'd had my keys. 
The locksmith was delighted I didn't have my keys, though I'm sure he was also cursing the lack of a camera; the vision of me, Mrs. MacGyver, dismantling the door handle with a twig, my teeth, and raw fingers (and let's not forget my bare feet), would have been quite the hit on YouTube or in the office later on. As he screwed the handle back on and then released my lock (and $300 from my wallet), I vowed to never  EVER walk to the front gate on a windy morning again, or at least not without a hairbrush and keys, or an outfit that could rise to the occasion.

The entire Emé Vandal Autumn Winter 2010 collection, from Irish designer Alison Conneely, is exactly what I need for any and every occasion. My windswept/unswept hair with one of these stunning outfits would have made all those thousands of/forty-one passersby think I'd intentionally locked myself out of the house ... just to show off my fierce fashions.
Stalk Alison/Eme on FB

Sep 16, 2010

Smithwicks New Brewery Tour

We all know that Guinness is good for you, but how many people knew that Guinness isn't Ireland's oldest pint, and—while we're identifying gaps in knowledge—St. James's Gate isn't Ireland's oldest brewery? I was obviously missing that day at school. It seems 2010 marks the 300 year birthday for the Smithwick's St. Francis Abbey Brewery in Kilkenny. To celebrate the milestone, the brewery has thrown open it's doors and is inviting the public to tour the working brewery in Kilkenny, including a visit to the 12th Century St Francis Abbey which is on the brewery site. 

John Smithwick, circa 1700.
Brewing yard, circa 1900.
The Smithwicks story spans the last three-hundred years of Irish history and so it's a colorful one; the back story includes 13th Century monks who liked their brew, The Reformation, the early 1700s and a man determined to succeed despite the odds, Penal Law,  the Great Famine, Catholic Emancipation and Daniel O'Connell, through to World War II, ensuing decades of competition, expansion, and then the development of new technology and a draught beer. All told there were nine generations of Smithwick men involved in the growth of the Smithwicks company and brand, and I'd imagine the tour could be a very interesting history lesson—if you don't drink too much in the tasting room, that is!

For now, I'll celebrate by raising a pint of Smithwicks on this side of the Atlantic; and then hopefully I can swing a visit to this hot new tourist destination on my next trip home.
Stalk Smithwicks on FB

Sep 15, 2010

Fight Like Apes

I just ordered a copy of the new Fight Like Apes album The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner because:
1. I love the title of the album and think I might start dropping it randomly in conversation as a replacement for "OMG."
2. I love acting the ape myself.
3. I used to race home from Saturday evening mass, communion undissolved in my mouth, to watch Planet of the Apes.
4. I am quite taken with this song, "Hoo Ha Henry."

The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner (heehee, just love saying that!) is not yet available on US iTunes, so you can order a hard copy of The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner from their label, right here. Hope you enjoy The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner. Okay, I'll stop now.
Stalk the FLApes on FB

Sep 14, 2010

Irish Farmer Calendar, 2011

I know a lot of people who start thinking about Christmas the week after last Christmas. I usually fall into the two-weeks-before-Christmas-is-time-enough school of thought myself, though it would be nice to have more time for cookies and obsessive tree redecorating this year. I'm thinking that September is the perfect time to start thinking about Christmas; it's not so early that people will hate you/resent you/make fun of you, and it's not so late that you will hate you/resent you/make fun of you.
I'm thinking to kick off my slow-and-steady Holiday season today by ordering a few copies of the Irish Farmer Calendar for 2011.

I'll order one for me (because my uncle won—and didn't appreciate winning!—my copy of last year's calendar in the Christmas grab bag), and a few copies for friends. It's a unique and fun gift, contains 100% Irish beef, and proceeds benefit Bóthar, an Irish charity specializing in improved livestock production to enable communities worldwide to overcome poverty (and it's perfectly decent to objectify Irish farmers when it helps hungry children).

Irish Farmer Calendar is offering free postage to anywhere in the world until September 20. Just type the promotional code VIP2011 after you click the "Buy Now" button.

Farmer Calendar on FB

Sep 13, 2010

Kerri McEvoy

How beautiful are these printed silk scarves by Irish designer, Kerri McEvoy?

That was not a rhetorical question people; they are very beautiful indeed. McEvoy manipulates her original photography in Photoshop and then handprints her images on silk to create stunning scarves/works of art that can be worn several different ways. I not only want these scarves with a vengeance, I also want blouses, pillows, sheets, knickers, and tablecloths in these prints.
How special? Say it with me: very special!

Kerri's Etsy store

Sep 10, 2010

Behold: The Kug

I'm going to skip right past the where-I've-been-all-week formalities (because it's far more exciting in your gutter-minded imaginings) and get right to the woohoo-it's-Friday part: Woohoo—it's Friday! My own imagination is running a little wild this morning at the discovery of—drumroll please—the Kug. 
It's a kettle-and-mug/kiss-and-hug combo, designed by Irish twenty-somethings Ben Millet and Alan Harrison, as part of a project at the National College of Art and Design.  It's basically a cup-size kettle; the outside cup has a hidden element in the base which connects to power to boil, while the inner cup is removable and can be washed after use. You need access to an electrical outlet to power it, though their ad indicates the finished design might allow for car or usb chargers, too. A solar charger would be a nice touch for committed (should-be-committed) tea drinkers like me.
Apparently the Kug was designed with arthritis sufferers in mind (lifting a kettle can be a pain when you have bitching bones), though, I secretly believe it was designed just for me, and every other tea lover, struggling to find a hot—not microwaved warm—cup of tea in New York.  It'd be a handy gadget for new moms, too, because they need the caffeine more than the rest of us and the ability to heat up/whip up bottles on the go is a nice bonus.
Love that the Kug is easy on the eye and easy on the environment, too—you only boil the amount of water you actually need and you won't need paper cups when you leave the house.  Come to think of it, I'd also be less inclined to stop at Starbucks, so it'd be easy on my wallet, too.
Visit Kug's site to register interest so they'll know there's demand, you'll know when you have the perfect gift for the arthritic, ecomaniac, and tea-aholic in your life, and I can leave the house/my kettle.

Sidenote: See my Found It Loved It column over on DivineCaroline today for more tea-rrific finds.

The Kug on Facebook

Sep 3, 2010

Merle O'Grady

When I first moved to New York from Ireland almost fifteen years ago, my grandmother took me aside and gravely warned me to protect myself at all times by carrying a can of hairspray in my bag. I remember wondering if I was supposed to defend my life or my image (by tidying up my hair after being mauled) with the hairspray. Fortunately, I never did get to use my deadly weapon, though for a long time, I enjoyed imagining myself as Gotham's newest hero, fighting crime and flyaway hair. Killer hair aside, I have found that it helps to have a little edge in this city. Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to Merle O'Grady's jewelry.

Influenced by symmetric and geometric pattern, Dublin-born (but London-based) twenty-something O'Grady creates high fashion jewelry using her signature punched latex shapes. Rough natural semi-precious stones are mixed with sleek, futuristic perspex shapes to create jewelry that says "Hi there ... I'm cool ... Don't fuck with me ... We're cool"—something I'd need to inhale a can of hairspray to say myself. 

I love that her designs are feminine but strong, luxurious but armorlike, pretty but ballsy. They're also quite wearable, though the earrings might be a bit too robots-in-disguise for my boring ears.

I'm especially taken with the punk attitude and glamor of her spiked pieces:

Stalk her on FB
Shop Merle O'Grady at and

And because Nana knows best:
 Living Proof flexible hold hairspray, travel size: $14 at Sephora