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