Apr 26, 2013

Irish Sea-Washed Roban Backpack

I didn't know I needed a new backpack but I do. I have a cute but useless one that I use to ferry my wimpy weights to Zumba and sometimes to cart extra layers and snacks to the soccer field but, beyond the fact that it can be worn on my back, my backpack is not a practical backpack. A practical backpack has pockets, an obedient zip or buckle, and a be-prepared attitude. It can carry a laptop, lunch, layers, lettuce, lingerie, and other things I can't think of right now that start with letters other than 'L.' 

The one I just realized I want need must have looks like it's been around, but in a safe-sex kinda way. It's weathered, rugged, sturdy, and stylish. It's also been for a swim in the Irish Sea.

Dublin design company, Stighlorgan, makes "accessories that are built to last ... that take whatever the road throws at them." They use tough canvas, top grain leather, and thick jute rope fastenings. This spring, Stighlorgan has released its signature Roban backpack in a peat-green color and with an Irish-Sea wash.  The bags were soaked and ‘sea-washed’ in rough sea on the carved rock diving steps at Salthill, near Dún Laoghaire. They then went into an industrial wash to finish the process. The Spring 2013 Roban has a new weathered look; the canvas has become marled, the edges of the leather trim now have a two tone effect, and the jute rope has shrunk to become a rugged hawser.

The limited edition Irish Sea-washed Roban backpack will be available exclusively from Stighlorgan's website from Monday 29th April 2013. Only 50 bags survived the arctic waters so pre-order to guarantee availability. Bags are £89 and make a cool–and unique–Irish gift.


Apr 24, 2013

Irish Bookshelf: The Cake Cafe Bake Book

What to pack? What to buy while I'm there? What to make for dinner tonight? Welcome to my countdown-to-trip-home head. Another week and the 'dinner tonight' question won't even rate. I'm like a college student home for the weekend when I arrive in Ireland – stuffing my bag with anything that isn't nailed down. So far, I'm shopping for sweets, tea bags, salt-and-vinegar Taytos, Salad Cream, a Fisherman Out of Ireland hat to replace the beloved one I just lost in DC, and a butter dish
Oh, and books. I always end up carting back a gwawl of books, both new and used. There's always at least one cookbook in the mix (because you can never have enough sponge cake recipes). I'm already making room in my suitcase, on my shelf, and in my belly for Cake Cafe's Bake Book.

How cool is this book?

Self-published by Michelle Darmody of Cake Cafe, a small bakery and cafe in Dublin 8, and designed and illustrated by Niall Sweeney (of Ponybox), this book is jam-packed with tasty recipes and sugar-coated with cool graphics and illustrations. Not only is the book good enough looking to eat but it focuses on all things cake. Which means I can use it for every meal. The Bake Book offers illustrations, diagrams, and lots of advice and practical information, but my favorite thing about this book is what it does not offer – photography (which is probably why it was self-pubbed). Such a ballsy and fresh move. Let's recount: unique, graphic, cool, fun and cake-focused. SOLD!

Shop it: The Cake Cafe Bake Book

ps. The Cake Cafe also offers some cool, graphic aprons and tea-towels if you like your aprons and tea-towels to match your cookbooks.

Apr 22, 2013

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Dish

They say don't sweat the small stuff. But in a week of much head-shaking, sadness, and general bewilderment at such notions as terrorism and patriotism, I find myself comforted – or at least, comfortably distracted – by the small stuff. Instead of trying to understand how two young men could place a bomb at a finish line – a place of triumph and celebration – and in the vicinity of innocent bystanders ... of a sweet 8-year-old boy ... I find myself wondering how I have managed to date without a butter dish. 

I know, you thought I was raised right. Me too. I always thought I'd be the kind of grown up who would serve butter on a dish and milk from a jug. Instead, somehow, I serve a spreadable fat from a plastic tub and pour milk straight from a giant plastic carton. If you were to strap me to a kitchen chair and force an excuse out of me, I'd ask who has the time to wait for real butter to soften sufficiently to spread it on bread? Or the room in the fridge for a jug and a giant carton? But inside I'd know, I do.

I'll be heading home in a few weeks and I might make a butter dish the focus of my trip. Sure, there'll be a family wedding, a few birthday parties, and reunions with far-flung relatives and friends, but there'll also be the hunt for the perfect butter dish. And maybe even a matching jug. Thinking I might start with Dunbeacon Pottery's simple but lovely butter dish.

My first reaction is to want to use it to serve chocolate. Good chocolate. My second is an overwhelming urge to get buttering bread.  

Dunbeacon Pottery, run by ceramicist Helen Ennis, is based in Durrus in West Cork. Actually, the website describes the location as "west of Durrus in the west of west Cork." So it's way west. Homewares are available in off-white, green, and blue glazes, all inspired by the beautiful West-Cork location. I think my butter dish will have to be clean and simple off-white. I can see it on my table. Hear myself saying, "could you pass the Dunbeacon butter dish, please," and the kids smiling politely and saying "of course mother, here you go, and by the way this meal is delicious and your hair looks lovely today. Thanks for being so wonderful." 

To complete this rosy scene, I might have to get the matching jug and sugar bowl. 

And maybe some mugs. And pasta/salad bowls.

Now to figure out how I can swing a shopping sidetrip to the west of west Cork from a jam-packed agenda in Clare ... Handmade butter dishes for the bride and groom, birthday boys and girls, far-flung cousins and friends? Perfect! I guess I could pick one (entire collection) up for myself while I'm there.  

DunbeaconPottery online at The Irish Design Shop

Apr 13, 2013

Angela's (and Other Scanlon) Ashes

Sorry, just a quickie hello. I've been off taking in (or slipping under) the cherry blossoms in DC, working on a few projects, and trying to out-zumba a pregnant lady in an effort to shed winter padding. Anyhoo, I'll get my blogging act together soon but just wanted to share a quickie in the meantime.

Irish stylist/writer/presenter Angela Scanlon was profiled on Who What Wear style blog the other day as their "Newest Girl Crush" and "new favorite 'it' girl." I hate to say I beat WWW to the punch but I've had a crush on Angela Scanlon's cool style/life/it-ness for ages now and I was delighted to see her get a callout on such a major fashion site. I want her wardrobe and her job. I want the fashion she wants (currently a pair of pink suede overalls) because I don't want to rule  out the pugs (so-ugly-they're-cute) of fashion. I want her hair. In fact, I have two pictures of her on my "Hair! Hair!" Pinterest board that I shared with my hairdresser who btw thinks I'm a nut job because I directed her with "either Angela's hair or half the head shaved like Rihanna."

Unlike WWW, I'm not a stalker ... though, I do realize as I write this that Angela isn't the first Scanlon I've taken a shine to.

I once harbored preteen feelings for Jack Scanlon who lived on the other side of the block. Jack only had eyes for my neighbor, and BFUSS (Best Friend Until Secondary School), Mary. Mary had long and dark hair, an uncle who was a famous hurler, and she was very good at math and rounders. I couldn't compete. Then, Jack loved Jacqueline and that was too poetic for me to interfere with, even if the first three letters of my name also matched the first three letters of theirs. Then there was Jack's older brother, Mark. Mark worked at the same hotel-restaurant as me when I was a teenager. To me, Mark was Jack-meets-George-Clooney (or more accurately, Jack-meets-Dick-Byrne, the kind-of-but-not-really Irish George Clooney). To Mark, I was his friend's younger sister. Actually, I was Mark's friend's younger, spotty, frizzy-haired sister who got blotchy after the hotel-manager berated her publicly for turning her back to a table of customers to shine teaspoons. Mark was dating an older girl at the restaurant who had bleached-blonde hair and wore way too much makeup. They were both way out of my league – even if I did happen to know that her teaspoons were dull and she was in love with the Head Chef at the hotel.

When I stopped loving the Scanlons, I wanted to be one. The youngest Scanlon was born on a leap year and I wanted her exceptional birthday so badly. I thought she might have special powers. I'll be home in a couple of months and will report back on that assumption. I bet she's a horse-whisperer or she sees dead people or something cool like that. Or maybe she's a podiatrist – changing lives with orthotics.

Anyway, back to Angela. Yeah, she's another fab example of Scanlondom. Read her blog and admire her wit and shoes at AngelaScanlon.com.

(Yes, that was a quickie. Aren't you glad you don't have to sit on a bar stool next to me tonight and listen to me ramble? Unless you, too, have a Scanlon history. If so, I'll be at Pete's Tavern at 8.)