Aug 25, 2011

Spuds, Glorious Spuds!

My mother was right. She always said—as she dragged on my ear lobe and scraped my inner ear with a hairpin—that spuds would take root in my head, and they have. I have spuds on the brain. Maybe it's my autumnal instinct for root vegetables kicking in, or maybe it's because today is National Potato Day. You heard me; there's a whole day dedicated to my favorite food! Hello potato pancakes for breakfast, potato croquettes for lunch, and potato gratin for dinner—all with a side of buttery mashed potatoes. Mashed, roasted, baked, twice-baked, fried ... with garlic, with butter, with leeks ... peppered, topped, souped, smothered ... wait, why stop at a Day? I'm thinking National Potato Weekend!

Actually, I'm away this weekend, so my 'spudselebrations' will have to be extended to a week!

Banking a few recipes to spruce up my spud sides and recipes, so I thought to share. I started with the obvious choice—, where I found smoked mackerel and new potato salad, Italian potato gnocchi with goat's cheese, and crispy potato cakes.
Now, what's for dinner? (says she as she sharpens her potato-peeler)

Ten spud-heavy recipes I want to try: 
Mustard-roasted potatoes via Smitten Kitchen
Tullamore Dew Whiskey Bacon Pie via A Village Pantry
Colcannon and champ via Married an Irish Farmer
Crispy hasseblack potatoes via Donal Skehan
Pomegranate, beet, potato, walnut, chevre salad at Being Cheap Never Tasted so Good
Spinach, potato, and coat's cheese tart via Rachel Allen
Boxie potato cake salad via Kevin Dundon
Potato tomato bread via The Daily Spud
Rhubarb potato gratin via The Daily Spud
Potato spinach sausage casserole, potato skins, and curried potato soup (all at once) via Simply Recipes

Happy Potato Week!

Aug 24, 2011

Keep Going Sure It's Grand!

I got stuck in an elevator with Ed Burns several years ago. There were a lot of agents and art galleries in the SoHo office building where I worked, so many a work day started with the words "guess who I saw in the elevator this morning!" I was more interested in my lunch than people-watching when I first got into the elevator that afternoon, but when it sped from the ground floor to the top and down three times without stopping, I looked around and found myself on a rollercoaster with actor Ed Burns and some other guy. When the elevator finally stalled between floors halfway up, I held up my brown paper bag and said "I don't know about your desert island lists, but mine always included a chicken sandwich!" Other guy made agitated noises as he hammered on the emergency button, but Ed Burns laughed and said he felt so relieved knowing he was stuck in an elevator with an Irish person. 

There is something quintessentially Irish about making light of heavy, scary, or potentially life-threatening situations. It's something I miss living in New York, where the inclination in an unscheduled moment is usually to complain or completely freak out (illustrated loudly by my inconvenienced neighbor-the-dentist and his whiney client-in-need-of-dental-and-maybe-mental-work after yesterday's earthquake tremors). 

Maybe that's why I'm so drawn to the calming designs of Dublin graphic designer Fergus O'Neill ...

I think I've featured O'Neill's "F It Sure It's Grand" and "Keep Going Sure It's Grand" prints (the Irish answer to the ubiquitous "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters) before, and I still get a kick out of them, but the Grand Grand line has expanded to include a bunch of other stuff I love, too.

Baby vests to ensure Ireland keeps growing easy-natured future generations:


North Side and South Side badges (a fun take on those omnipresent North Face badges!) and Fine Words Butter No Parsnips print (top of my wishlist):

and Holy God these lovely t-shirts!

No need for panic. Just slowly make your way to

Aug 22, 2011

Stinging Fly New York

I had a little window of time while I ate mashed banana on toast in my backyard this weekend so I posted a bit of a New York story over on Stinging Fly. I thought I might share it here, too (because it's Monday and I have little else to share). Be sure to visit Stinging Fly to read the other stories posted there, including Stephen Kennedy's only-in-New-York story about helping his Irish friend move a full-size helicopter out of his apartment in Queens.
“Always carry a can of hairspray in your handbag in case you get mugged,” my grandmother pressed as she tugged an unwanted cardigan sleeve up my arm. We were half way over the Atlantic. Half way to New York. Half way from Ireland. I wanted to look out the window and feel the weight——and weightlessness——of my twenty-year-old self dangling half way between the New World and my old world. I wanted to imagine St. Brendan paving the way before me on the ocean below me—moody and threatening like an upside-down Irish sky. I wanted to feel the clock skip back for a five-hour do-over. My grandmother wanted me to imagine styling my mugger’s hair.

“Never trust a cabbie,” my uncle offered as he weaved easily in and out of comers and goers at the airport, in and out of Irish and American accents. “If you must take a cab,” he added, while responding in sign language to two cars honking at us, “be sure to look like you know where you’re going, or you’ll be taking the feckin’ scenic route to the bank.” I wanted to take the scenic route. I wanted the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge to welcome me to New York, but they were no-shows on our way to New Jersey. I tried to imagine where I would fit in all the traffic, highways, and noise. I felt like my grandmother who ducked her head every time we went under an overpass.

“American girls make less of an effort on a Saturday night and more of an effort on a Monday morning,” my boss’s assistant Maureen counseled as she pressed a tube of lipstick into my palm on my third day in the office. Maureen had been in New York for seven years so she pronounced Billy Joel correctly and drank weak tea. When my grandmother called the office to giggle at me stumbling over my good-morning-Howard-Zingermann-and-Associates greeting, she said Maureen’s American accent was the sign of a weak character. Maureen had her own ideas about character: “The boss and clients love that you are just off the boat,” she’d say, wagging her manicured pointer, “but they won’t love that you have the vocabulary of an Irish sailor. You’re not in Ireland anymore; watch your mouth.”

“There are more fuckin’ roaches in this fuckin’ city than people,” my housemates Claire and Angela screeched as they took turns pounding the monstrosity of a bug that had sauntered across our kitchen floor while we were waiting for the kettle to boil. I looked away and stifled a scream, the way my grandmother had looked away and stifled tears when she'd left for the airport the week before. She had been full of nervous chatter that morning at my aunt’s breakfast table, painting a dramatic picture of me spilling silent heavy tears "for old boyfriends and good old days in the bog" as the plane had taxied away from the gate in Shannon all those weeks before. I told her she’d confused the bottom-heavy raindrops rolling across the window with tears, and said maybe she’d read too many of the sappy Loving magazines that circulated——along with The Farmer’s Journal and The Catholic Missions——between herself, Tess McMahon, and Mamie Moroney. She corrected her story to include rain, gave me a tense tight hug, and with a slap told me I was “a right yank now.”

I didn’t know until she left that I had emigrated.

Now, go add your story:

Aug 19, 2011

This weekend

A day to myself is unusual. A Saturday to myself is unheard of. This might be the first one ever. I'm feeling a little pressured. Should I sleep in or wake up early? Should I spend the day with a friend or spend the day with myself? Museum or beer garden? SoHo or downtown Brooklyn? Writing or painting? Baking or shopping? A bike ride or a walk across the bridge? Manicure or massage?

Feel guilty for doing nothing or feel guilty for doing something?

Aug 18, 2011

Irish Provinces Map Puzzle

Munster I can rattle off in my sleep, because I'm from Munster: Clare, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, and Limerick. Connaught comes easy, too: Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon. Leinster is less ... fluid: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Offaly ... (cough, cough) ... Wexford, Wicklow ... and so on. Ulster makes my head hurt: Cavan, Down, Donegal ... why didn't we have some kind of song? or ROYGBIV trick? or pills?
I used to be able to rely on rattling off stuff I learned way back when I had a brain to feel better about all the stuff I can't retain these days, but it seems my brain is starting to clear away its early slates as well as its daily slates. If Google hadn't already been invented, I'd be inventing it now to help me finish my provinces as well as my sentences.

I'm sure this magnetic regions map of Ireland was designed to help kids learn the four provinces of Ireland, but it would be a nice gift for an elderly/dithery visual learner, too. Love the look of the stained birch plywood, and that county lines and large lakes (I swear, Mr. Pilkington was a really great Geography teacher but I can't produce a lake beyond Lough Neagh ... ooh and Lough Allen!) are etched into the wood. Also very handy that it's magnetic because I spend quite a lot of time hanging off my fridge door ... trying to remember what I'm looking for.

Love this USA map puzzle (stained to show time zones); packaged with an Ireland map puzzle it would make a cool gift for an Irish American kid/parents of an Irish American kid.

Okay, I just remembered Antrim, Armagh, and Lough Derg. I'd better go Google-in-the-blanks or my brain will be farting like this for hours.

Aug 16, 2011

Clare Apple Cakeens

It rained again. I baked again. (Maybe I'd own a little bakery in Ireland if I hadn't emigrated?)
I went with my old reliable Kerry Apple Cake recipe, but instead of one big cake, I made little apple cupcakes or cakeens. When those sweet little hot apple cakeens came out of the oven, I knew I had just given birth to my new favorite dessert ... so I adopted the recipe from Kerry. These cakeens are Clare Apple Cakeens now (pending confirmation by the Federal Court of County Kerry).

Still easy peasy.  2 cups flour, 3 tsp baking powder, and pinch salt all together in a large bowl. Cut in a half cup of butter until it looks crumbly. Peel five apples and slice them thin. Toss into flour-butter mix along with 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix it up. Add 2 beaten eggs and a splash of milk. Spoon into muffin/cupcake pan. Bake at 375F for 40 mins or so. Enjoy with heavy cream.

You will never eat an uncooked apple again.

Aug 11, 2011

Song to Help Fix Japan

To benefit the victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that shook—and took—the lives of so many in March 2011, 49 artists from 18 countries including Simple Plan's Pierre Bouvier and Sebastien Lefevbre, Evaline, These Kids Wear Crowns and (amazing) 11 year old Yuto Miyazawa came together in Singapore to record a cover of Coldplay's "Fix You." Sweet Jane's Lydia des Dolles flew the flag for Ireland. Beautiful we-are-the-world stuff.

The proceeds of this track (to be released soon on iTunes) will benefit the Japanese Red Cross Society and Peace Boat—a Tokyo based charity helping with the country's rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts.

Donate directly at or 

Jam Drop Cookies

Gene Kelly liked to sing in the rain. I bake.

Rain drops > Sugar levels drop > Jam drops.
[a passing shower. I have to move fast.]
Oven to 375F.
A stick of butter, a cup and two-thirds of flour, and a half-cup of sugar into the mixer for a few minutes.
A little beaten egg pulls the mix into a stiff dough.
Roll walnut-sized balls and line them up on baking sheet.
[the phone rings. no time to talk.]
Flatten slightly and make a dent with thumb.
Add a drop of jam.
Into the oven for 15 mins.
[repeat favorite cloud words: cirrus, nimbus, cumulus, stratus, iCloud.]
Burn roof of mouth with hot jam.
[rain and sugar storm moves on.]

Aug 9, 2011

Dog Days

I'm a little behind on my life at the moment but that's what happens in the dog days of summer. For those of you not familiar with the Wikipedia entry on "Dog days," they are the hottest and most sultry days of summer, and were once believed to be an evil time "when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, Quinto raged in anger, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." Lovely.

I've been dog-sitting the past few days so my days have been more dog than usual.
How cute is this guy? 
(A lot cuter than the pile of unraveled yarn and half-chewed loot I found in a corner this morning.)

There's no point trying to get anything accomplished during languid phrensies. It's hot. My brain keeps moving from solid (brain freeze) to liquid (brain melt). There's nothing for it but aimless wandering around the internets and weekend-like round-ups on a Tuesday.  A few things I'm melting-freezing-melting for ...

White Tea Engagement Shoot

I'm nosy so I always love looking at other people's photos, but I want to be in these gorgeous engagement photos by Dublin-based photography duo White Tea. Love the styling, the props, the outfits, the beautiful backdrop. Seriously, if you know anyone getting married in Ireland, you have to send them up the mountains with White Tea photographers. In the meantime, take yourself for a nosy gander through their wedding and engagement photo galleries.

Lisa O'Neill
I've been listening to Lisa O'Neill Has an Album by Cavan singer-songwriter Lisa O'Neill the past few days and I'm so taken with her distinct young-and-old voice and poetic lyrics and imagery. Wish I could have caught her on her recent North American tour with David Gray but had to settle for her album available on iTunes, and videos on her YouTube channel.
Her versions of Sinead O'Connor's "Three Babies" and Ivor Cutler's" I Worne My Elbow" are the perfect soundtrack to these sea-boiling, wine-souring days.
Check out her YouTube channel
Stalk her on FB

The Anti Room
I should be reading Paul Murray's An Evening of Long Goodbyes right now but, as mentioned on Facebook, I ordered it in German. (Warning: do not operate shopping machinery while under influence of dog days.) So, I'm hanging out in the Anti Room, "the home of many Irish ladies writing about everything from fashion to feminism, pop culture to politics." I popped in this morning and found Ann Cronin's plans (and dreams) to hop on the emigration bandwagon/boat, Kim Porcelli's seven minute hummis recipe, and a guest's post on her virtual father. So much better than reading a German dictionary.

Aug 3, 2011

RDS National Crafts Competition

1st Prize RDS Award of Excellence, Karl Harron
There's a good chance I'm going to win New York's Mega Millions this weekend, so I'm shopping around for a private jet (to take me back and forth to Ireland, and maybe a few other places, too) and checking out the recently announced winners of the 2011 RDS National Crafts Competition (so that I can kickstart my new hobby as a collector and decorate my many homes with the latest in Irish art and design). These few bits and pieces will be a good start for my penthouse apartment:
1st Prize Woodturning, Robert O'Connor
2nd Prize Furniture, Fergal Costello
1st Prize Patchwork and Quilting, Elizabeth Ann Fleeton
The RDS National Crafts Competition is one of the Europe’s leading independently adjudicated craft competitions. It's open to all craft workers and designers in Ireland (including students and apprentices), and boasts a prize fund in excess of €28,000 over 20 different categories.

1st Prize Ceramics, Mark Campden
Winner Ceramics Ireland Award, Grainne Watts

1st Prize Printed Textiles, Bernadette Madden
1st Prize Ceramics (Contemporary), Kieran Whitelaw

1st Prize Leatherwork, Una Burke
I'm excited that next year I'll have enough time/money/private jets to attend the RDS National Crafts Competition in person ... wearing these shoes:

1st Prize Lace Category, Marie Cullen

Check out the complete gallery of winners at