Dec 17, 2013

Buy Irish: AllJoy Design

Felt tree coaster decorations at

I recently came across Irish laser-cut design company AllJoy Design and wish I'd been more on the ball to order their felt tree and snowflake coasters to gift this year. 

Laid flat, these coasters are a festive accent for the holiday table, but they can also be slotted together to create cute and cool 3-D decorations. In theory, these felty festive-meets-function coasters would make great gifts, but let's be honest, if I had been organized enough to buy some two weeks ago, they'd be decorating my own table right now. #toocutetogift.

AllJoy Laser Cut Map of Dublin at
Dublin map,
Alljoy Design's products are all designed and produced by Jiawen and Ling Xu, originally from China, they set up their design company in Phibsboro Dublin after investing in a laser-cutting machine several years ago. The work mainly in paper, card, and felt, producing greeting cards as well as felt tableware. The laser cut maps of Dublin, available in blue or black, would make a cutting edge (ahem) gift for the Dub on your list. The design is also available on a mug or plate from

Felt Placemat and Coasters from AllJoy at
AllJoy's site appears to be wholesale only but you can find their wares in stores like (my fave) the Irish Design Shop, Designist, and Jam Art Prints.

Stalker details:

Dec 11, 2013

Review: My Ireland Box

I was recently introduced to a new Irish company that incorporates two of my favorite things – Irish crafts and care packages. I loved the idea even before the chocolate biscuit cake met my lips. Even more (about 350 calories more) after. My Ireland Box is a monthly subscription service that delivers carefully picked, and packaged, Irish crafts to your door. It's kind of like an Irish gifting fairy—with great taste and magic connections to Irish makers and shakers—who makes you look really good ... because she actually goes to the post office.

Subscriptions are available in three, six, or twelve month packages, or you can just opt for a once-off package when needed. There's even a mini monthly subscription if you'd like to send a smaller somethin'-somethin' to a friend/family member/yourself every month. It's an excellent gift idea, especially if you are in a last-minute pinch; an e-card will notify your recipient of their pending gift. Each package includes a selection of up to four Irish made goodies—jewelry, home goods, beauty products, food, etc.—along with a little information about the Irish businesses featured in the package. It's a great way to introduce someone to contemporary Irish design.

My experience
I don't usually accept freebies here on the auld blog, simply because the web is like one big product placement these days. I prefer to feature Irish goodies I've come across independently so that I have no strings attached. All that said, I accepted the kind offer of a sample monthly package from My Ireland Box because curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to experience the service firsthand. Curated gift boxes are a growing trend/business—I've featured Birchbox, Barkbox, ByBrooklyn, and Golden Tote as a shopping columnist—and I was delighted to hear of an Irish-themed one. Delighted and hopeful that the package would deliver some authentic Irishness. 
Honestly, my first reaction was a little hesitant when I unwrapped the shamrock mug. Yes, it's Irish made (by ShannonBridge Pottery) and a lovely cup but it immediately got my Irish up, in the wrong way. I have a little bit of an Irish pottery habit (it gets its own suitcase when I travel home), so I immediately found myself wishing they'd chosen something less cliche-Irish from ShannonBridge or another Irish pottery company. Also found myself wondering if, perhaps, I am not the demographic the company is targeting. It'll make a good gift for my great-aunt.

Moving on, I loved the handknit mug warmer from Little Buttons and Bows. Loved that it was handknit in Wexford by Anne Molloy and that the cute little wood button was made by Molloy's woodturner husband. Minor gripe – sorry!— but it seems a wasted opportunity that the warmer is too big for the aforementioned cup. Fits my other mugs fine though, and you can't beat a little something handknit. Also loved the chocolate biscuit cake bar from Foods of Athenry. Inhaled. I would definitely shop Foods of Athenry again to send a little sweet something to a friend at home.

Also included in the November "cozy-up" My Ireland Box was a pocket book, Irish Myths and Legends, from Appletree Press. It's a cute little book but was a little surprised to find that it's a reference guide — was expecting a little book of stories, not a who's who in Irish mythology. That said, I have found myself flipping through it and making notes of stories I want to revisit or old Irish characters I want to research. Again, I have a full appreciation for all things old and traditional but I would have loved to have found a poem or short story from Nuala Ní Chonchúir or another hot, now Irish writer.

Sorry, I obviously have a shamrock-shaped chip on my shoulder; the version of Ireland sold on this side of the ocean doesn't always marry with my own so I try maybe a little too hard to avoid the cliche. Cute book and loved the idea of cozying up with a book, a sweet, a cup of tea (wish there'd been a tea bag!), and a mug cozy.

I loved getting a package from home. I was excited to receive it and could imagine how much fun it would be to gift or receive. It's easy and unique. Love the idea of this company and applaud the founders for their mission to promote Irish businesses and share a little bit of Ireland with the world. With a little digging I found that My Ireland Box has featured some really cool contemporary Irish makers like Jennifer Slattery, Liz Christy, Matt Jones, Eoin O'Connor, Sinéad Lough, Placed, and Blaithín Ennis in past boxes. Makes me want to put a year-long subscription on my Christmas list just for the monthly surprise!

This company is definitely one to watch. Would love to see it grow to include gift boxes curated by Irish celebrities or themed to suit certain categories, like food, holidays, or occasions. There are so many Irish living away from home right now—like all of my cousins ;-( — and I could definitely see my remaining family members in Ireland wanting to send them a little care package from home. So much potential here ...

Get your shop on/get your Irish up!
MyIrelandBox on FB
Cost: €30 one month, €90 three months, €165 six months, €330 twelve months; €17.50 mini box

Dec 5, 2013

Buy Irish: Barry's/Santa's Tea

I hate to generalize but if you have an Irish person on your holiday gift list, you can't go wrong with a tea-related gift. Irish people like tea the way all other people like oxygen. It's a ritual, a hobby, a lifestyle, a necessity ... and a no-fail gift. When you live away from Ireland, it's the simple stuff that really brings you home – the cheese-and-onion Taytos, the Salad Cream, the black pudding, the Milky Moos, oh! and the milky teeth that I just can't seem to find anywhere else in the world besides Talty's shop in Lissycasey! It's also the tea.

I've featured personalized Barry's Tea here in the past but—strickenface—it looks like the company is not offering this option at the moment. Not to panic, second best to a personalized brew is a festive Santa's Tea box, designed especially for the Christmas season, and perfect for a grab bag, Secret (tea-drinking) Santa gift, and an intervention with a certain red-suited delivery guy who likes to drink and fly on his busiest day of the year. Bonus points: the personal touch might persuade Santa Baby to accidentally reroute Beyonce's gifts to my house ...

HURRY! Friday the 6th is the last US (and outside Europe) postage date if you want Santa to have a hot cuppa with his gingerbread cookies. Don't forget to put the kettle on!

Dec 4, 2013

Buy Irish: Aibítir-Alphabet Print

Buying the new parents in your life an Irish baby gift is as easy as ABC thanks to Placed's sweet Irish Alphabet print. The Aibítir – Alphabet in Irish features the 18 letters of the original Irish Alphabet. The letters are all illustrated with little icons hand drawn by René Mullin at the Placed Studio in Belfast and printed on high-quality, heavy paper stock so that it will make a great gift when framed, and great keepsake, too.

Get your Irish up and get your shop on:
Visit Placed's Etsy Store

Dec 3, 2013

Buy Irish: Sealed with Irish Love

22 days until Christmas. For me, that means about 20 days of shopping for myself and 2 panicked days getting creative on the cheap – baking cookies, knitting mittens, and painting (abstract) pet portraits. I never shop ahead. Not just because I'm not that organized, but because I enjoy December and all the naughty or nice list decisions (over hot chocolate) it brings. Thanks to an early Bourne-like brainwashing to "Buy Irish," I can't but use this season to introduce non-Irish friends to favorite Irish brands and goodies and to give expat Irish friends and family a little bit of home. I thought I'd share a few of my faves here for the month of December (though, I may have to spike the hot chocolate to make it all the way!)

Brand new Irish homewares and gifts company, Sealed With Irish Love, offers a lovely blend of Irish nostalgia and fresh, modern design. The product range includes notebooks, card sets, mugs, tea towels, and coasters — all decorated with quintessentially "Irish" images like the windswept hawthorn tree, old Irish bicycle, bird feathers, and a village water pump, and all right at home in today's young Irish kitchen.

While working abroad for a number of years, founder Máire McKeogh recognized the emotional tug and power of a little something from home. Upon her return to Ireland last year, this nostalgia for her Irish surroundings combined with a background in interior design inspired Máire to design and create her own little somethings from home. Inspired by Máire's childhood in the west of Ireland, and many ramblings and road trips around the country since her return, the contemporary designs are sure to pull at the heart strings (and—fingers-crossed for this new company—purse strings) of Irish at home and abroad. I know the mugs in particular inspire a three-for-me-one-for-you shopping response in me!

Get your Irish up and get your shop on:
Sealed with Irish Love on FB

Nov 10, 2013

Irish Short Makes Oscar Longlist

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 10 animated short films that will continue in the voting process for this year’s Oscars. The 10 films, picked from 56 qualified shorts, included Irish short The Missing Scarf, from Irish director and animator Eoin Duffy (and narrated by actor George Takei – aka Hikaru Sulu of Star Trek.)

On a quest to find his missing scarf, Albert the squirrel unearths problems far beyond his own.

The Missing Scarf – Teaser from Eoin Duffy on Vimeo.

The short is described as "A black comedy exploring some of life's common fears: fear of the unknown, of failure, rejection, and finally the fear of death. All delivered under the misleading tone of a child's storybook reading."

The final five nominees will be announced in January ahead of the ceremony on March 2nd.

Nov 6, 2013

Musical Time Out

I am under a few deadlines at the moment and generally up-the-walls in-full-headless-chicken-mode but I thought I would take a minute to calm the voices in my head and cure the radio silence on this patch of internet with—what else—some music. 

Cian Nugent
I was listening to NPR's All Songs Considered podcast this morning while I was walking the dog, and heard mention of Irish guitarist Cian Nugent as an example of American Primitive (blues-country-folk-bluegrass) music. I had to check out this non-American example of American music. Lars Gotrich listed Nugent's album, Born With The Caul, (with band The Cosmos) as "a loose jaunt that feels at home in the countryside as much as it does a dive." Especially love the slow build of the song "Double Horse" which you can listen to here, as well as this unhurried song and video for "Grass Above My Head," directed by Cait Fahey.

Born With The Caul will be released on November 13 via No Quarter.

Inside Llewyn Davis
So yesterday when I was walking the dog, because walking the dog is my social life at the moment, I listened to a preview of the soundtrack to the Coen brothers' new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis. I loved the music of O Brother, Where Art Thou from their 2000 movie so I was eager to see what genre of music the brothers Coen would revive with this movie. Turns out it's set in the early-60s Greenwich Village folk scene. I quite like the music, especially the five-minute "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me," and I know I'll probably LOVE the music after I see the movie, 'cos my ear is not so evolved as to not need the supporting visuals of Justin Timberlake and Marcus Mumford. Speaking of Timberlake and Mumford, these two boyos (along with members of Punch Brothers) perform a lovely version of Irish trad ballad, "The Auld Triangle" in the movie. This song never fails to stir and also never fails to inspire a singalong (it got me singing at the dog park and a few mutts howling along). If Oh Brother is any indicator, there will be much "jingle jangle all along the banks of the Royal Canal" after Inside Llewyn Davis is released in December.

Refresh yourself on the auld lyrics and hear the entire album at NPR First Listen

James Vincent McMorrow
If you know me at all, you know I've got a bit of a thing for JVMcM. I call him "McVitie" in our imaginary conversations (which we carry on for hours on our imaginary strolls along deserted California beaches, in open Montana meadows, and rambling around the Burren). The man is beautiful. I was hoping to catch him at Joe's Pub in a few weeks but it seems I have competition for his attentions now and the gig is sold out. Hoping he will see my absence as this-bitch-playing-hard-to-get and the suffering will lead him to write a beautiful, tormented song. 
While we wait for that, we can take comfort in this newly released song and vid, "Cavalier," from JVMcM's new album—Post Tropical—due out January 2014.

Oct 14, 2013

Spotlight: Lisa O'Neill, Same Cloth or Not

Excited to hear that Irish folk musician Lisa O' Neill is set to release her second album, Same Cloth or Not, on October 18. The follow up to 2009's Has An Album, this sure-to-be-utterly-enchanting (and not-even-close-to-the-same-cloth-as-anyone-else) album was recorded in a little house [I made that up; it might have been a big house] in Wicklow with producer David Kitt. O'Neill will hit the roads of Ireland and Europe with the new album starting this week, and hopefully the enigmatic and poetic storyteller will row a little boat across the Atlantic at some point so us lost souls can listen to her storied songs live, too. Maybe you should join me in preordering her album on iTunes so she can buy some travel size shampoos and anti-nausea Sea-Bands for her travels.

Here's a little teaser vid from Myles O'Reilly:

Join me in stalking Lisa:
Same Cloth or Not on iTunes
Lisa on FB
Lisa on Twitter

Oct 2, 2013

Fall Girl: Simone Rocha

I had lunch with my husband's 95-year-old grandmother a few weekends ago. I thought I was appropriately dressed in a long, flowy skirt with flat sandals, a plain tee, and loose, styled-to-look-unstyled hair, but Faye gave me a quick up and down audit from lively brown eyes (accentuated with a line of dark eyeliner about a half-inch below her bottom lashes), and told me I looked like a Rebbetzin – a Rabbi's wife. Oy Vey! I was going for  Bohemian.  

Faye was wearing a mint-green knee-length dress over a patterned silk blouse in shades of sea greens and blues, accessorized with heeled green sandals, a coordinating handbag, and layers of necklaces, bracelets, and rings. It was like she couldn't decide between all her favorite things, so she didn't. Her silver mantle of hair was perfectly groomed, perfectly motionless, styled-to-look-styled. 

When I sat down to tell my grandmother about the Rebbetzin "compliment" in a letter, I was reminded that Faye and Bridie come from such different worlds: where Faye is known for her high heels and piles of jewelry, Bridie is known for her headscarves and sturdy support stockings. My grandmother favors plain cardigans (with roomy sleeves for tissues), cream blouses, Queen-like skirt-and-blazer action for fancy affairs, and nun-like pencil skirts for everyday. Her wardrobe is a sensible wood one taking up little space in her bedroom (and probably stocked with wool blankets and a shoebox of cash for birthday cards); Faye's wall-length mirrored closets line several rooms and are overflowing with a lifetime of furs, leathers, and elegant fashions. 

I imagine Irish designer Simone Rocha and I would have a blast sharing polar-opposite-granny stories and matching-handbag-and-shoe notes over afternoon tea (while she forces her fashions on me). See, Rocha's AW2013 collection—Respect Your Elders—was inspired by the designer's grandmothers, Margaret Gleeson on the Irish side and Cecelia Rocha on the Chinese side. 
While I might have created a fur housecoat with leopard-print support stockings to represent the two grannies in my life, Simone Rocha created a ladylike-with-an-edge collection, stocked with pink neoprene princess coats, wide cropped trousers, and prim skirt suits. The use of neoprene, leopard-spotted faux fur, shiny patent leather, and tinsel tweeds kept the collection young and hip. Instead of going full-on Granny, Simone stayed on the right, cool side of inspired to create a collection that is just that—inspired.

Her Grannies must be so proud. If my elegant elders were proud of me, and wanted to one-up each other from their opposite sides of the Atlantic, they'd stock my wardrobe with Rocha's gorgeous styles in black and cream. They might even throw in a few Pepto-Bismol pink surprises, too ... just so I have something to wear to Bingo.

ps. If a fashionista was to accidentally stumble on this blog she'd no doubt say I'm an undedicated follower of fashion, thinking about Fall fashions now when designers have already shown their Spring/Summer 2014 looks. Thing is, I refuse to get caught up in the ridiculous fashion season-ahead machine. It's just so stupid. I feel Fall in Fall, not in Spring! Kiss it fashionista.

Sep 25, 2013

Fall Girl: Lennon Courtney

I used to stubbornly insist on calling fall "Autumn" in the same way that I have for my eighteen years here insisted on calling a pencil sharpener a "topper," but the longer I'm in New York, the more this time of year really starts to feel like "Fall." There's the falling over flattened-by-flip-flop feet trying to get out the door at a respectable hour in the mornings; the falling behind on to-dos as I struggle to adjust to suddenly overcrowded schedules; and the falling into bed earlier and earlier as my internal clock adjusts to the early mornings and colder temps. And then there's my favorite fall of all – the falling stuntwoman-style for seasonal wools, leathers, suedes, and velvets, coats, boots, sweaters, and hats. 

My current fall fashion obsesh (that has me wanting to dive off tall buildings and tumble out of helicopters a la Lee Majors) is, well, everything from Irish label Lennon Courtney's AW2013 "Weekend" collection.

Developed by two of Ireland’s leading fashion stylists/style commentators (from Irish show "Off the Rails")— Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney— Lennon Courtney is a line of polished and hardworking wardrobe basics ... that are anything but basic. I came across this elegant line at the end of their Spring/Summer season and I fell in love with the figure-flattering, feminine silhouettes. I've long been hunting down the perfect, simple-but-not-boring Little Black Dress and I found it in both Lennon Courtney's Lantern and Full Circle dresses. Actually, as well as needing both little black dresses, I'll need them both in white, too ... along with the neat tux jacket for added interest.


In fact, when my horse comes in I'm planning to rebuild my entire wardrobe with Lennon Courtney; the new, rich me will be effortlessly elegant and chic, but not at all fussy. I'll be classic and maybe even classy, despite my gauche nouveau-riche ways. I'll have strong brows, good posture, and I won't be afraid to be seen in blue and green.

In short, I'll be sharp a topper.

Stalk Lennon Courtney:
Lennon Courtney on Pinterest and on Facebook

Aug 30, 2013

Rest in Peace Seamus Heaney

So very sad this morning to wake to the news of Seamus Heaney's untimely death. I did not know this great man personally and yet it feels such a personal loss. I was lucky enough to witness Mr. Heaney reading from "Beowulf" at Lincoln Center a few years back: I remember feeling held—suspended, captive, and tight—by his voice and presence that night, as I had for years before, and have for years since, been held—suspended, captive, and tight—by his words. I've always turned to Heaney. When lonesome for home, I can pick up one of my dogeared collections of his work and there, somehow strung together with words, is the music and wisdom, the smell and the sounds, the history and story of home. The night before my own father's funeral a few years ago, it was to Heaney I turned for words, and calm, when I couldn't sleep. I keep him on my bedside table, and committed to heart, so he is always there — and I suppose the beauty of the pen is that he will continue to be there. 
This morning I will sit with a cup of tea and pay tribute to a beautiful Irish writer by reading again some of my favorites. Rest in Peace Mr. Heaney.

The Railway Children

When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.
Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.
We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words traveled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,
Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled
We could stream through the eye of a needle.
~Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Jul 16, 2013

Kevin Barry Reads You a Story

The weight of the pages. Sweat smudges obscuring the clever words. Mosquito bites distracting you from the flow. So hard to read in this heat. Not a bother: just sit back with your fancy, chilled passionfruit tea and enjoy Irish writer Kevin Barry doing all the grunt work for you. 

Jul 11, 2013

Thanks Be to Ted

Things have calmed a little on the work front for me so to prevent myself doing any of the cleaning, reorganizing, or painting projects I put off doing while I was up the walls, I spent yesterday looking for a job. Cleaning the decomposed vegetables from the fridge would have been more fun. I don't even want to read a rambling page-long list of duties, never mind write a clever and creative (but not too creative that it will scare off the square in HR) cover letter to convince someone that I would ever want to do all of them.
I came across one listing for a parenting writer for a pop-culture site and instead of feeling excited at the prospect of exploring my thoughts on the parallels of parenting newborns and teens, I felt sad that I would more likely be required to explore more ad-friendly content like "10 Ways Your Kids Can Dress Like Suri," "Keeping Up With North West," and "Dissecting the Contents of a Royal Diaper."
I sound jaded. I am jaded. Ugh, I hate being jaded. 

So instead of applying for jobs I  went to the dermatologist and got a biopsy of a mole. Going to a dermatologist after a week in the sunny Bahamas is like going to yoga after a curry. Double downer. 

In desperate need of guidance and a pick-me-up before I lost my entire week to despair, I turned to Father Ted.

I wanted to get myself the Holy Trilogy boxed set of Father Ted episodes but it's going for $100 on Amazon (careful now!). While my brother is sourcing me less holy copies I am taking comfort in YouTube clips and the sage words and style of Irish T-Shirt company, Ted's Tees.

"Down With This Sort of Thing"
From the episode where the controversial movie ‘The Passion of St. Tibulus’—which is banned by the Pope—is being shown on Craggy Island. Bishop Brennan asks Father Ted and Dougal to get the film withdrawn and as a result of their protest, it becomes the most successful film in the cinema’s history.

Note: This was my catchphrase for an entire year in college. I think it's time to resuscitate it.
"Nuns! Nuns! Reverse! Reverse!"
From the episode where Novelist Polly Clarke, author of the steamy ‘Bejewelled with Kisses’, comes to stay on the Island and Ted mistakenly believes she has fallen for him.

"Who's a Bit of a Moaning Michael?"
Ted, Dougal and Jack head off on their summer holidays to Father O'Rourke's caravan in Kilkenny. Unfortunately, a run-in with some naked occupants of the caravan park gets the holymen's holiday off to a sticky start. The situation deteriorates further when they discover Father Noel Furlong and his St Luke's Youth Group have moved into their caravan and are in the middle of a rendition of Ebony and Ivory. Just how many cover versions of Waterboys songs can they take before they give up the ghost and head for home...

Dreams Vs Reality
Ted gets the chance to appear on ‘Faith of our Fathers’, the prestigious Eireann telly show. Could this be the opportunity for him to find television stardom and escape from Craggy Island?
"Tom (wearing an "I Shot JR" T-shirt): Father?
Father Ted: Yes, Tom?
Tom: I've killed a man.
Father Ted: (nonchalantly) Did you, Tom? I'll have to talk to you about that later. I'm going to do an interview for the television!"

These shirts are a hilarious alternative to typical St. Paddy's attire, cool gifts, and an excellent conversation starter. Will a Father Jack Pop-Art tee help me find the right next job or a Mrs. Doyle Pop-Art tee get me cleaning like the housekeeper from Hell? Not a prayer, but they will get my head where I want it to be ... on Craggy Island. Up with this sort of thing!

Need a pick-me-up for your wardrobe and mood? Get happy/kitted out at