Jul 29, 2011

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

I ordered two books to take on vacation with me last week: Kathryn Stockett's The Help and Paul Murray's Skippy Dies. Skippy arrived first so instead of being pulled into Mississippi in the 1960s, I was completely transported to an expensive Catholic school in Celtic Tiger-era Ireland ... and into the heads of fourteen-year old boys. I deliberated about taking Skippy with me because I was worried that it might be too heavy for the beach. I was right; it is heavy (in every way), but my only regret about taking this 600-page book with me on vacation is that I waited until the third day to start it. 

Longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Skippy Dies is not, in fact a tragedy about Australia’s tutting Lassie; it's the tale of a group of fourteen-year-old boys—and the adults who teach them—in an elite boarding school in South Dublin. Skippy being the hero, or the antihero, who falls for Lori, a (dangerously) beautiful girl from the convent school next door. In the opening scene, Skippy dies (sorry to spoil that for you) during a doughnut-eating race with his roommate, Ruprecht, and writes Lori's name on the floor in strawberry syrup; the book then tracks back to discover how his death came about. That flashback is a rollercoaster ride and read, at times heartwarming and heartbreaking, gutbusting and gutwrenching, deeply funny and deeply depressing, and highly recommended/not recommended at all if you have a fourteen-year-old!

A must for your Irish bookshelf. Read it soon because Neil Jordan is working on a screen adaptation (Yay! Skippy lives on!).

Buy Skippy Dies: A Novel

I'm off to read Paul Murray's first novel An Evening of Long Goodbyes next.

Jul 26, 2011

Exhale ...

I didn't think I wanted to go on a "sun holiday." I thought I wanted to be climbing Mount Everest, hiking the two-week back-route to Machu Picchu, taking a volcano safari in Uganda, or finding Gaudi/markets/flamenco classes in Barcelona. 
Silly me!
Of course I wanted a sun holiday ... and to be laid out on a private island beach, belly-up to a pool-bar, chasing air on a jet ski, chasing iguanas with my camera, swimming in a waterfall in a rainforest, exploring Old San Juan, reading for hours at a time, eating for hours at a time, playing cards and tennis, forcing myself to go on steep waterslides, forcing myself to have a facial and massage, having mango mojitos for lunch, having pina coladas for dinner... sigh ... laid out on a private island beach.
As a small, wise man who used to be married to Jennifer Lopez once sang, "Yo te quiero Puerto Rico" (I love you Puerto Rico).

Jul 14, 2011

Little Green Cars

Just discovered new Irish band Little Green Cars (while pretending I was at Oxegen 2011 by watching all of RTE's backstage recordings on YouTube). Love this song—"My Love Took Me Down to the River (to Silence Me)"—and would love to hear more from this band.

FYI, I'd also love a little green car—preferably a Morris Minor.
Stalk LittleGreenCars on FB
Check out RTE's Oxegen uploads on YouTube

Jul 13, 2011

Beet Cake

My grandmother snapped the jar of sliced beetroot away from me and said "Now that's enough beetroot, you'll make yourself sick." She spoke in that same clipped tone she used when shooing the hens out of the kitchen, or calling the dog back from chasing Johnny Crowley's tractor—and it cast the same temporary spell. Before long, she was off "God's sake tonight!" hurrying my uncles back out to the waiting day, or hightailing it down the field to save her sheets and support stockings from a sudden shower ... and the hens were back in the kitchen, the dog back on Johnny Crowley watch, and I was back in the jar.
I threw up all over her oil-cloth tablecloth.

Now, replace that image of beet throw-up, and the sounds of my grandmother tutting like she was Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, with this beautifully-shot little video/recipe from Tiger in a Jar; it documents the baking of Beet Cake (I would love a whole series of recipes just like this one) and captures that dreamy magic of making something.
Makes me want beet cake ... and my grandmother to tell me when to walk away from it.

Jul 12, 2011

Orla Kiely AW 2011/My New Work Wardrobe

I've been freelancing from home for a few years now, and while I love the flexibility and lack of stress, every so often I get the bug to go back into a corporate environment. I don't miss the awkward elevator chats, the constant time- and energy-suck meetings, or not being able to pee in peace (until everyone leaves the bathroom—which in a large office means serious kegel exercises); I do miss dressing for work. Dressing for work is not just dressing to feel more perky/confident than you are in one of those sucky meetings, it's dressing for the NYC subway at rush hour, dressing to encourage yourself to actually leave the building at lunchtime, dressing to bump into P-Diddy and his butler when you come flying out of a revolving door (I patted him on the chest and said "Oh my goodness, I'm sorry P-Diddy" though I wish I'd called him Sean Puffy), and dressing for after-work shopping or drinks—preferably in SoHo.
Today in my home-office, I'm wearing cut-off jeans and a once-white tunic. In case you are imagining sexy cut-off jeans, let me clarify that I cut the legs off my jeans myself (with a nail scissors), so one leg is longer than the other—a look popular with bike messengers and gang members, but not particularly flattering. The once-white tunic could also be described as yellow. The bottoms of my feet are manky from walking barefoot out back/in my kitchen. Sigh, I look like I work at Woodstock.

Orla Kiely's AW2011 lookbook has me updating my resume:
I'd be so Alexa Chung-meets-Mod-Mad Men swanning around the office/revolving door in those beautiful, thick coats ... the short, wool dresses and A-Line skirts ... the cable-knit skirt suits ... the tailored check suits ... the black socks and ankle strapped shoes. Love that this collection is polished and professional but also easy-to-wear and cozy. So cozy in fact that I could just swap out the ankle-strapped heels for slippers (and the made-up face for an unwashed face) and wear this collection at home (says she as she walks away from her resume to put the kettle on).

Check out more pics of OK's collection on Facebook

Jul 3, 2011

This weekend

It's Fourth of July weekend and I am celebrating all things red, white, and blue by fully engaging in all sorts of fun activities (i.e., biking, beach-going, partying) sure to leave me at first red, then pale white, and finally blue in the face!
So far, I've taken in a mandatory summer blockbuster movie (Transformers 3), hit the beach, strolled a boardwalk, played a foul-mouthed game of minigolf, and baked (and prayed over) a raspberry-apple pie—with a lattice top, heavy cream, and side of blueberries (I was hungry!) to give it a red-white-and-blueand-hungry edge over my aunt's classic Irish apple tart.

In a little bit, I'll be heading out to my cousin's "Beer and BBQ Extravaganza" in New Jersey, and tonight I will sample the blues in a dive bar in the East Village. Hopefully, tomorrow will leave a little time for lounging, reading, and maybe even fireworks ...

House of Exile by Evelyn Juers, about the great exodus of European writers to foreign parts during the rise of Hitler. It's a biography of writer Heinrich Mann (brother of the more famous Thomas) and his second wife Nelly Kroeger, and also somewhat of a collective biography of writers and intellectuals exiled from Germany in the thirties. The subtitle—"War, Love and Literature from Berlin to Los Angeles"—pretty much sums up everything I'm looking for in a summer read; add a mention of James and Nora Joyce (as well as other writers like Nettie Palmer, Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, and Virginia Woolf), a positive review in the Guardian a few weeks ago, and some leftover pie, and I'll be sitting under literary fireworks all day.
Buy House of Exile on Amazon

I'm not an American citizen yet (we can talk this out over a pint someday) but I'm pretty sure there are mandatory appreciate-the-flag exercizes I should practice on the Fourth of July ... from a lounging position ... with a beer and burger in each hand. Wish I could be seeing stars and (sunburn)stripes from this Lean Back chair.

It's designed by Irish landscape company Outerscapes and made from hardwood pallets unearthed in a Wexford piggery (I half want these just so I can say "Wexford piggery" everytime I offer guests a seat). Apparently, the Lean Back chair was such a hit at this year's Bloom (an Irish garden festival) that Outerscapes' Breffni McGeough and Francis Doyle are now trying to figure out how to make Lean Back chairs available to all of us who like to lean back ... and say Wexford piggery.

Have a great weekend!