Mar 31, 2011

The Picture of Calm

I saw this Ocean Print photograph by Laura Bell on A Cup of Jo the other day and have since been kind of obsessed with the idea of having a window to the sea over my bed. I love this print—its soothing greys, the movement and the lack of movement, the space. It makes me want to hang real ocean over my bed, or maybe, hang my bed above real ocean. Exhale.
These photographs of the south and west coasts of Ireland by self-taught Irish photographer Michael Prior are similarly calming:

all images copyright Michael Prior

Prior has a studio in Howe Strand, just off the coast road between Kinsale and Clonakilty in West Cork, and understandably, the sea is a prevailing theme in his work. How could I not have tranquil dreams lying under that second print of the beach at sunset in Garretstown, West Cork? I'm normally more drawn to the violence and energy of the water on the west coast of Ireland, but these images remind that the sea can be equally powerful when it pauses for breath. (They also remind that my sister—a Cork transplant—needs to take me beyond Patrick Street next time I visit!)


Mar 29, 2011

Virtual Resources for a Real(ly Good) Visit to Dublin

I do everything online: I shop online, I talk online, I watch TV online, I work online, I order food online. If I could, I'd eat, bathe, and change the toilet roll online, too. I like to sleep offline, but just because I worry that mid-night flatulence and chatter would go viral.

I'm currently caught up with summer vacation planning/dreaming online, which can be a challenge. For one thing, it's hard to know who to trust. My I-trust-people-with-beards policy, which works amazingly well in Starbucks and when I need to find a toilet in a museum, is useless to me online. So is my I-trust-pregnant-people policy. It seems my gut is just not wired to be wireless. Plus, having worked in publishing/with companies trying to grow readership or sell books for more than a decade, I know how companies plant reviews, pay to be featured, and bribe each other with delicious white chocolate, so it makes me a little bit of a salt-pinching-Doubting-Thomas when I'm researching online. Hmmn ... makes me think there's a niche online for a traveling bearded pregnant lady who doesn't eat white chocolate; if you know one, can you tell her I am looking to spend my summer somewhere sexy, rich, and cheap, with fat locals so I can feel skinny.

Anyway, as I was bookmarking villas, yachts, and white summer dresses this morning, I was reminded to share a few sites I had bookmarked for my recent visit to Dublin. I haven't included any of the obvious travel sites where you can read a hundred inconsistent hotel reviews/become even more paranoid about bedbugs, and I'm also not including tourism sites, weather forecasters, or news outlets—you've got them covered. These are just a few handy, new, or less-traveled virtual resources to help you get a real grip on your visit to Dublin.

Eat Magazine

Eat Magazine is Dublin’s brand new free publication for people interested in food and drink, restaurants, and the culinary scene in Ireland. You can find the digital version of issue 1 (which includes including a 24 page guide to the best restaurants in Dublin) here. Upcoming issues will cover Dublin cookery schools, Dublin pubs, and a guide to Ireland's food producers. This is a handy resource if you care about eating at hot spots; I mostly just want my food hot.

City of a Thousand Welcomes

LOVE the idea of City of a Thousand Welcomes—a new  project that matches real Dubliners (known as ambassadors) with real like-minded tourists to give them some real insight on the city they’re visiting, packaged with one of the thousand welcomes that the Irish are so famous for, and a free pint or cup of tea! "The short-term goal is to give visitors a really positive first impression of Dublin. The long-term goal is to bolster the city’s reputation as a place where ‘great hospitality’ is more than just a slogan." CTW will be open for bookings in early June; join their mailing list if you're planning a visit, or sign up to be an ambassador if you live in Dublin. Excellent way to meet locals/new people.

Spotted By Locals

I came across Spotted By Locals—a series of blogs, PDF city guides, and iPhone apps with up-to-date tips by local bloggers in 33 cities in Europe—after my recent visit to Dublin, but I like the idea, and I'm eager to put their recommendations to the test next time. The food and bar recommendations are not great overall (suited more to locals than visitors wanting to feel like a local—there is a difference!), but the walks, museum reviews, and store reviews are helpful. Think they could take it a step further and allow you to sort reviews to suit your travel profile (i.e., single/couple/with kids).
A few things I've flagged for testing next time: The Writers Museum; The Hole in the Wall Pub; Hugh Lane Municipal GalleryKilliney Beach; Irish Museum of Modern Art; Royal Canal Walk from City; and Bray Head.

Virtual Visit Dublin

I like to fantasize and romanticize upcoming vacations, and the truth is there's only so much room for reality in the planning stages. I get how handy it is to see what your hotel room looks like before you splurge but I'm actually quite low-maintenance and a little old school in wanting to be surprised by my destination. Too much information is too much information. Still, VirtualVisit-Dublin—"A virtual prelude to the real experience that awaits you"—is too good a resource to ignore. I wouldn't use it but I'm sharing in case you have a very quick turnaround in Dublin and you want to vet some attractions, bars, or hotels before you go to save time. It's not yet a comprehensive database of everything to see and do in Dublin but there are plans to grow it to include "150+ full-screen high-resolution panoramas showing some popular and less well-known visitor locations in Dublin ... including visitor attractions, hotels, shops, bars and restaurants." (Also very handy if you just want to visit Dublin virtually.)

Dublin Event Guide

This is a free weekly no-frills newsletter and guide to free things to do in Dublin. It includes Joerg's Picks—the writer's personal picks for his week, as well as leads to live music, readings, talks, flea markets, exhibitions, workshops, sporting events, and more, all organized by day of the week. It could do with a little design help but it feels insidery and honest.
Visit or send an email to to subscribe. Follow Dublin Event Guide on Facebook.

Totally Dublin

This is a more-frills guide to what's happening in Dublin, complete with reviews, previews, and event/culture/comedy/nightlife/film/music/exhibition listings. The blog includes reviews, new shop alerts, and interviews. Great resource.

Dublin Blogs
Finally, blogs are an excellent way to get acquainted with your destination before you, well, get acquainted with your destination; they also help with trip anticipation—a key part of every vacation. If you focus on blogs that suit your interest—be it bird-watching, shopping, live music, food, or bar-hopping—you'll get lots of handy insights and hopefully a heads up on events that suit you. It will take a little blog-hopping to find the right reads for you, but it's a shortcut to your interests once you land in your destination. For instance, I occasionally check into Stephen Moloney's Stitches/Fabric/and Soul to get a glimpse of Dublin street style/get motivated to match my socks once in a while, and I found his list of favorite—and not so favorite—vintage haunts around Dublin very handy when figuring where to spend my five minutes/shillings while visiting. Also, if I'd had the liberty to be out past ten at night, I'd have referenced Nialler9's Gig Guide to catch some live music.
Get started by checking out the winners of this year's Irish Blog Awards.

(herself on the Ha'penny Bridge a few weeks ago)

Ag Smaoineamh Ort

I need a whole box set of these Ag Smaoineamh Ort (Thinking of You) cards by Yvonne Kennedy for all the weeks—and sometimes months—at a time that I fall off the radar with friends. One minute I'm there and drinking tea and talking nonsense, and the next I've been kidnapped by the Faeries for a few weeks. I can think of at least seven people I could send these to right now—yikes, that's kind of scary. It's not at all scary that those seven people would be delighted with a baahing substitute. Also available in a cute little hedgehog design.

Mar 21, 2011

Vintage Map Pillows

Ireland tea towels—not so fancy. Ireland knickers—not so sexy. Ireland pillows—not too shabby! 
How cool are these vintage map pillows from My Bearded Pigeon? And while I'm at it, how cool is the name My Bearded Pigeon? Very. 
Not sure the Ireland pillow fits with my decor, but I am sure that the vintage map element gives it an edge over Ireland tea towels or knickers (and even tea towels or knickers that have been converted into pillows).
Love, love, love  that giant world map pillow for a kid's room.


Mar 18, 2011

St. Patrick's Day-After

I just deleted three paragraphs about how simple St. Patrick's Day used to be when I was a kid and how it became such a complicated event for me after I immigrated to the States—especially after I had kids (Irish-American kids, no less!), and felt responsible for shaping their relationship with—and perception of—Ireland. 
Yawn. I'm done with the overanalysis and the immigrant snobbery and the negativity. I decided this year that I wanted things to be simple again ... and so they are!
I had a great day yesterday handing out Irish- and Irish-American-authored books to commuters as part of The Irish Arts Center's inaugural Irish Book Day. There were volunteers at transit hubs in all five boroughs sending New Yorkers off to work and school with a smile and a good book. I was on the street at the crack of dawn and delighted to deliver some Yeats, Wilde, O'Brien, Binchy, Hamill, Quinn, McCann, and more into the hands of at-first-cynical-but-then-surprised-and-grateful New Yorkers ... "I swear, they're free ... please take a book and enjoy it. No, really, you don't have to pay  me. No, I won't follow you home. Oh, you're very welcome!" 
I wished people a Happy St. Patrick's Day, and for the first time ever, I meant it. 

Mar 15, 2011

I Want to Blog From the Bog

 photos by Jane Steger-Lewis

I swiped these stunning images from Blog From The Bog, the blog of Jane Steger-Lewis of aforementioned I Love Mayo. If I could steal away right now, it would be to this quiet patch of earth overlooking Clew Bay. I always want to escape New York around St. Patrick's Day because I am never quite sure how to act or what to wear, or how not to act or what not to wear. I don't want to be a downer on other people having green-beer-and-corned-beef fun, but I also don't want anything to do with green beer or corned beef. Most of all, I don't want to overthink it all; it seems so petty when there are real problems in the world. I bet I wouldn't overthink anything if I was facing Jane Steger-Lewis' view. I also wouldn't hear kids from Long Island throwing up on their kiss-me-I'm-a-stereotype t-shirts; I'd hear Yeats ...

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

from "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats

Mar 13, 2011

I Heart Mayo (Not Mayonnaise)

I answer the "How long have you been in the States?" question at least once a week. I usually pause as if I haven't thought about it in a long while/week, count on my fingers for dramatic effect, and then respond with surprise/alarm/teary eyes (depending on my audience) "almost sixteen years." 
If anyone asks me today, I will say "too long." 

See, when I came across I Love Mayo's prints this morning, I spent at least ten minutes thinking it a bit odd to name a shop for the love of mayonnaise. Then, I read the "Who Are We?" section and realized that it's "a showcase for artists, photographers, and craftspeople living or working in County Mayo in the west of Ireland." I had a few drinks last night and the clocks sprang forward an hour, but still, I thought mayonnaise before County Mayo.
Thinking in the language of my new home before my old one would be a triumph if I had lived in France or Spain for almost sixteen years, and thought French or Spanish before English; thinking American slang before Irish feels like failure. So not fair.

I don't even like mayonnaise.

I do like County Mayo. I also quite like I Love Mayo's selection of prints by Jane Steger-Lewis, especially this cajoling "Aw go on" tea print (every kitchen should have one):

And these contemporary designs of traditional Irish blessings would make lovely gifts:

Stalk them on Facebook

Mar 11, 2011

Julie Feeney at Joe's Pub

Julie Feeney onstage (pardon the shite photo courtesy of my iPhone)

I went to see award-winning singer, composer, orchestrator, and producer of critically acclaimed 13 Songs and Pages, Julie Feeney, at Joe's Pub the other night. While she sounds great on paper, I wasn't quite sure what to expect in person as I wasn't familiar with her music. Turns out she's as interesting to listen to—and look at—as she is to read about.

Feeney has a unique and lovely voice, a fun and personable stage presence, and an eccentric can't-but-be-compared-to-Gaga style (though, in fairness, it seems she was doing the elaborate headdress thing before Lady G). She is obviously a very talented and creative musician; it just wasn't obvious to me until well into her third song ... because I was busy trying to decipher her outfit. Now, I love to see people make an effort, but Feeney's rainbow tights, red glitter heels, short tent dress, and house hat/installation were an effort to look past. When my friend whispered, a few songs in, that she had decoded Feeney's outfit, I realized I wasn't the only one distracted. FYI, my friend's theory was that Feeney was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, and that she had managed to get her evil hands/feet on Dorothy's shoes. The tights didn't exactly fit our storyline but we both decided we loved the Wicked-Witch theory and Feeney's wicked sense of humor/style—and were then able to concentrate on the show. Later, Feeney shared that her hat was a replica of a tree house she had built by an Irish artist to represent the colorful world, and home, she had created in her album, Pages.
Oh ... Maybe some style statements should go unspoken? Okay, enough of my Cathy Horyn my-knickers-match-my-bra notions of upperosity. (I was just feeling insecure and underdressed.)

Feeney is exciting, playful, serious, energetic, and interesting. Her voice is textured and impressive, and much edgier in person (she comes across a little dippy/poppy in her videos). Loved her band,  the fact that she plays the piano/recorder/sticks (and apparently a ton of other instruments, too), and I bet she sounds amazing with a whole orchestra behind her (she wrote Pages for an orchestra which she conducted herself, too).
In short, there's so much more to Julie Feeney than meets the eye.

Julie Feeney is performing as part of the thirteenth annual Craic Fest in New York this weekend, and her album, Pages, will be released in the U.S. in May.
Stalk her: @julie_feeney or on Facebook

Mar 9, 2011

Mia O'Connell's Spring Collars

Mia O'Connell just added these romantic silk chiffon and silk satin ruffled collars to her etsy store. I'm not normally a pink-to-make-the-boys-wink person, but I suddenly—and quite desperately—want/need/MUST HAVE this nude/pale pink collar to soften everything I own. Makes me want to take tea, flutter my lashes, and read Edith Wharton. Think it'd look so pretty over a denim or army-green shirt, or even just a white tee. Sigh.
Can't wait to see what else she has in store for Spring and Summer.

Mar 8, 2011

Pancake Tuesday!

After Christmas, Pancake Tuesday was always my favorite religious holiday as a kid. It didn't merit a day off school, or a line of Hallmark cards, and there is no battered/batter-pouring saint to thank or summon for the occasion—in fact, it's not technically a religious holiday at all, but I swear I heard choirs of Heavenly angels when I woke up on what felt like any other dull and grey Tuesday and realized it was Pancake Tuesday.
I remember skipping to school with Mary Nugent, one-upping each other the whole way with the exotic fillings and flavors we would stuff our pancakes—and faces—with later that day. Mary might have had chocolate and marshmallow fillings but my mother could easily take her mother in a pancake flip/showdown; besides, who needs marshmallows or chocolates when you have lemon, sugar, and jam?
It wasn't until I moved to the U.S., and tried what qualifies as a pancake here (heavy, circular slabs drowning in syrup), that I realized we Irish are much more chic and gourmet than our corned-beef-and-cabbage mislabel; we eat—and dedicate a whole day to—crêpes, the national dish of France! Yes, our pancakes/crêpes, like all things French, are skinnier than all things American, and they are therefore better suited to rolling and filling with all things yum, like bananas and berries.

I'm planning to kick off the fastin' season with a little feastin' on crêpes tonight, and thought to share this recipe for traditional Crêpes Suzette from Irish celeb-chef, Clodagh McKenna. Wonder if Mary Nugent is serving her pancakes with an orange glaze tonight?

Click image to enlarge, or find the recipe on Clodagh's site,
Happy Pancake Tuesday!

Mar 7, 2011

It's Your Lucky Day!

Love the idea of celebrating St. Patrick's Day by tucking cute little bags of lucky somethings in the pockets/bags/mailboxes of your kids/neighbors/coworkers/strangers. One Charming Party has a cute—and free—"It's Your Lucky Day!" printable: just print out the labels, fill little cellophane baggies with chocolate coins or anything you consider lucky (horseshoe-shaped cookies? black-eyed peas? rabbit paws?), and tape the labels to the baggies. Easy, peasy, lucky.

Mar 5, 2011

Perpetual Paddy!

Perpetual Kid—the online store that invites you to "entertain your inner kid"—is offering free shipping on all things green/remotely-Paddy here in the U.S. this weekend. Paddy's Day is not a big gifting occasion in my house, but I must admit that I am tempted by a few products:

Perpetual Paddy

Clockwise from top: Get Along With Your Co-Workers Tea; Recycled Ideas notebook; Pickle Toothpaste; Pickle Pops; Port A Pint (collapsible pint glass!); Good Luck Plant Kit; Instant Irish Accent Breath Spray. Center: Lucky Charms Lip Balm.

Mar 4, 2011

I Heart This Tea Tee

Barry's Tea-shirt, €12—€13
My friend—and fellow tea-enthusiast—Siobhán turned me onto the Barry's Tea online store yesterday and I just had to share this I Heart Barry's Tea t-shirt. I'm always on the lookout for cute/cool/uncheesy t-shirt options for St. Patrick's Day, and think this one fits the bill nicely. Note: It looks lavender onscreen (which I happen to love), but the color choices are black, white, grey, and green.

Mar 3, 2011

Tea Porn

My kids can tell I'm just back from Ireland because I keep saying "manky" instead of "dirty," "savage" instead of "amazing," and "poxed" instead of "lucky."  I can tell I'm just back because I'm suddenly in desperate need of some savage new tea wares to replace my manky mugs, pots, and tea bags. I'd be poxed to feed my reinvigorated tea habit with any/all of these:

1. Mix and match pretty tea wares from Lisa Stickley London; 2. Tea with 'tude from Lenny Mud; 3. Sleek and sexy tea wares from Clam Lab; 4. Office-friendly tea-cups with tray and tea honey from Crate and Barrel; 5. BYOT kit (love this) and heart-shaped diffuser with loose tea from Sanctuary T.

I'll put the kettle on; you bring the Club Milks/biscuits!

Mar 1, 2011

While it's always nice to fit back into my own bed/arseprint on the couch/background noises after a vacation, I always feel a few pieces short of a puzzle when I'm returning from Ireland. There are pieces of me that only fit there, and I suppose, pieces of me that only fit here. (Unfortunately, my wobbly bits do not detach in either direction.) I might have a mild split-personality disorder (note to self: check if grinding your teeth is a symptom of split-personality), or maybe we all feel like we pick up pieces of ourselves when we visit home, regardless of the mileage traveled.

Yesterday, I was wishing a violent volcanic eruption on Iceland so that I could have another few weeks with my home bits. Greedy—and maybe even evil (sorry Bjork)—I know, but I just wasn't ready to get on a plane. I needed three more weeks: a week to spend more time with people I know—my nieces, nephews, grandmother, and friends; a week to spend time with people I don't know—shopkeepers of Grafton Street, Avoca, secondhand bookshops, and old man bars; and a week to spend time in between knowing and not knowing—at my father's grave. 
A few hours in Duty-Free wouldn't go astray, either.

Today, I'm grateful for our lovely visit and for all we managed to see, do, eat, and drink in a week (more to come later!) Grateful that our bits made it over and back without injury/baggage penalties. Grateful for all that I have on both sides of the Atlantic.
(I'm also a bit shaky and trying to figure out how I can get Weight Watchers, Java Junkies, Sugar Shakers United, and Alcoholics Anonymous in one room for a bit of calm.)
Thanks for all the lovely vacation wishes!
xo jac