Mar 18, 2014

Watch this Space: The Strypes

Snapshot from the Strypes
Have you heard of the Strypes yet? Well, in short, they're putting Co. Cavan on the map. A little longer, they're four ridiculously young and talented lads—guitarist/vocalist Josh McClorey, Bassist/harmonica-player Pete O’Hanlon, drummer Evan Walsh, and lead vocalist /frontman Ross Farrelly—from Cavan with a hard-driving sound that suggests the Beatles/the Ramones/the White Stripes. They write their own songs (as well as playing covers, very well btw), play their own instruments (with confidence, swagger, and actual talent), and have been earning a following the good old fashioned way—by playing the road and rocking hard.  They're gathering all sorts of buzz on this side of the Atlantic and I can't wait to see what they do with it.

I love that the last thing you notice about these boys is their looks. So refreshing.

The Strypes at SXSW earlier this week

Let the fanaticism begin:
The Strypes debut album, Snapshot, was released TODAY in the States and you can find it/support these small town boys/say you knew them when by buying it on Amazon, iTunes, or their website.
Catch them on tour now if you can.
Follow them on FB and Twitter
When you are caught up with the new album, be sure to check out even newer just-released EP, 4-Track Mind on Spotify.

Mar 17, 2014

An Online Parade of Irishness for Paddy's Day

I'm not marching today so I'm making my way around the interwebs, Cupán tae in hand, bookmarking articles, roundups, and lists, and reveling in the virtual parade of Irishness that counters some of the less desirable antics somehow associated with our national holiday. I love that every news outlet and blog is looking for an Irish angle today and that's a win-win for Irish makers and shakers. Here are a few reads I've managed in between pots of tea/seconds, thirds, and fourths of apple cake so far today:

A hAon / 1. The 'Food Ambassador of Ireland' Darina Allen shares four recipes and talks St. Patrick's Day and Irish food over at the Splendid Table. Would love to be sitting at her table tonight for her typical meal of "bacon, cabbage and parsley sauce with champ ... followed by a tart or pie made from the first little spears of the new season’s rhubarb." Champ and rhubarb. I die.

A Dó / 2.
BBC Travel explores the real St. Patrick and suggests sites across Ireland, from the Hill of Tara to Croagh Patrick, where you can connect with Ireland's Patron Saint or follow in his footsteps. Tip to extend your St. Patrick's Day celebrations: Every year on Holy Saturday (the Saturday before Easter), the local parish priest lights a fire on the Hill of Slane in Patrick's honor.

ATrí / 3.

The New York Times shares a rendering of the proposed new home of New York City's Irish Arts Center. The new $54 million home will be on 11th Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets, around the corner from the center's current cramped quarters. The groundbreaking is due March 2015 with an opening by the end of 2016. "The new building will increase the center’s space sevenfold — to 35,000 square feet from 5,000; its theater will grow to 199 seats from 99; and the operating budget will double to $4 million." So excited to watch the Irish Arts Center move on up to the kind of digs it deserves.

A Ceathair / 4.
For all the Irish food, fashion, and finance roundups I came across on the web this morning, there was very little real discussion about what it means to be Irish, or Irish-American. And then I popped by Salon and read Andrew O' Hehir's "How Did My Fellow Irish-Americans Get So Disgusting?" "On one hand, Irishness is a nonspecific global brand of pseudo-old pubs, watered-down Guinness, “Celtic” tattoos and vague New Age spirituality, designed to make white people feel faintly cool without doing any of the hard work of actually learning anything. On the other, it’s Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Pat Buchanan and Rep. Peter King, Long Island’s longtime Republican congressman (and IRA supporter), consistently representing the most stereotypical grade of racist, xenophobic, small-minded, right-wing Irish-American intolerance. When you think of the face of white rage in America, it belongs to a red-faced Irish dude on Fox News.
And then I read the almost-400 hater comments and was reminded why no-one wants to provoke thought or discussion on the Internet.

A Cúig / 5.

Loved reading on the Prowlster that Welsh-born Dublin-based Annie Atkins was head graphic designer for Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. How cool is that? Annie Rhiannon used to write A Pinch of Salt blog that I used to read/eat up forever ago, and even though she stopped contributing to it in 2011—pause here to realize how old we all are—it is still worth a read for its wit and humanity and heart. Anyway, I lost touch with what was going on in Annie's life and I am so excited to see that she is off kicking arses and making the world a better looking place. Will pay more attention now when I go see this movie ...

A Sé / 6.

Google's doodle for the day that's in it.

Mar 14, 2014

Wish I Was Here: Firehouse Bakery and Bread School

I'm heading home for a good friend's wedding at the end of August. I haven't taken care of any of the big details yet like booking flights, paying for flights, and losing fifteen pounds, but I am ahead of myself with a steadily growing mental list of things I want to do/ways I want to gain back fifteen pounds while I'm home. Along with the usual "visit Nana early so the scones are still hot," "eat garlic chips and cheese," and "stock up on knickers from Penney's and Dunnes," I am adding a few more ambitious to-dos to this trip. One hopeful is a visit to a "Bread and Breakfast" (as I like to call it) on a little island off the coast of West Cork ...

Located on picturesque Heir Island (also known as Inishodriscol), in Roaringwater Bay in West Cork, the Firehouse Bakery and Bread School offers small class sizes, local ingredients, a wood-burning clay oven, and instruction from teacher/author/master baker Patrick Ryan. It also offers the chance to learn a skill for life.

I've always been intimidated by bread. Sadly (or happily?), this intimidation does not affect the eating of bread, just the baking of it. I have never made a bread that required any yeast or kneading, so in truth, I have never made bread. No point boasting I've sky-dived or hiked Mayan ruins when I have a cinnamon-bun-shaped, gaping hole in my life's education. No more filling that void with other people's bread!

A day's course includes return ferry to Heir Island, full day hands-on baking experience, baking your own bread in a wood fired clay oven, lunch with wine (with Roaringwater Bay serving as the back drop), and—wait for it—a fresh-baked goodie bag of bread to take home with you! You can also prolong this delicious experience by staying overnight on Heir Island at Roaringwater Lodge (right next door) or at another of the island's accommodations. You can even take a sailing class in the bay. I would just walk the island and eat bread and then walk some more and eat some more bread. I can't imagine a better holiday ... or, come to think of it, a better way for a visitor to Ireland to get an authentic taste of Ireland.

Classes are limited to 6 participants to ensure an intimate learning environment. This is great if you are lucky enough to book a class before 6 other people beat you to it. Not so lucky if, like me, you are not on the ball. Looks like classes are booked out until October right now but you can email the school to be added to their waitlist (that's what I did, as well as crossing all fingers and toes.)

In the meantime, you can start your own schooling with Chef Ryan's book, Bread Revolution: Rise Up and Bake!. Also, be sure to check out Ryan's collection of short videos with Lisa Faulkner on the BBC's food website How to Cook videos.

Mar 11, 2014

50 Shades of Green

There's a lot of token green stuff on the interwebs this week but rather than round up the usual green Irish suspects, I thought I'd just randomly share some green non-Irish stuff I've been lusting after. Just because green happens to be my favorite color. Okay, if you strapped me to a chair, I'd have to admit that technically, it's a tie between green (every shade) and aqua/aquamarine blues which have a little green in them. I just want to be clear here in case I get hit by a bus tomorrow and someone thinks to bury me in Royal Blue which I would not love at all. I don't look good in reds, either. Bury me in aqua, please. 
Anyway (says she with an annoyed you-digress tone), back to green ... I have a Pinterest board named 50 Shades of Green (I digress: I think this would make a great name for a sexy Irish animated series -- animated because no one really wants to see Irish people knocking wellies) where I occasionally add green things I love. Rather than confine my current green obsessions to an unfrequented board (I digress: my most repinned pin on Pinterest—try saying that five times fast—is one of Anne Hathaway with bangs), I'm sharing some green here. I really hope you like green things after making your way through that mazelike paragraph.

Tip: do not let the word "Shamrock" fool you into thinking you should rock all this green at once.

Final sidenote: I may start posting non-Irish stuff here more regularly. Just to digress from regular programming. And because my original focus for this blog has broadened. And I like to shop virtually.

Feb 28, 2014

Whiskey in the Nice Jar

I'm not a whiskey drinker. My first-year college classmates and I got kicked out of the Jameson Distillery many years ago when we were supposed to be reporting on an event, and instead were competing in our own who-can-drink-the-most-free-whiskey event. If there was one thing I learned in college, it's that I am not a competitive whiskey drinker. That, and shorthand really was a waste of time. 

Twenty-year hangovers can't be shaken easily but I must admit that I am a little swayed by these Jerpoint Glass whiskey tumblers, originally designed by Makers & Brothers for Jameson Select Reserve as a limited batch of 100. The new tumbler glass is produced using traditional mouth blowing techniques and brings the classic whiskey tumbler design up to date, creating a new, slighter form but with the same reassuring weight. The glasses are now available for all on Makers & Brothers' site, and make a beautiful designed-and-made-in-Ireland gift when packaged with a bottle of Jameson. 

(I wonder if my interest in the design and story of the handblown glass my drink is served in means that I might—finally—be ready to handle this grown-up drink ... and maybe, even, to show my face in the Jameson Distillery again!)

€34.00 at  Makers & Brothers

Feb 24, 2014

I'd Like to Thank ... Don O'Neill

I shop when I'm about to start something new. This could mean I'm not confident with my own nakedness. Or I hide behind clothes. Or I'm superficial. Or I'm a procrastinator. Or maybe it just means that I dress for success ... and instead of needing therapy, I just need a higher credit limit. I saw an interesting job listing this morning and my first thought was, "I'd need a sharp new suit for the interview." My second thought was "and shoes." When I took up running a few years ago, I shopped like an athlete who had just been awarded a place on the Olympic team. For me, look the part = act the part. Yeah, so maybe I didn't actually make the team, but I looked good out there puffing and panting and cursing and throwing up.

This week I'm working on a script-writing project so, naturally, before I get anything down on paper, I'm shopping for the Oscars. Of course, I'd like to use my position on the red carpet, and stage, to showcase Irish designers, because I'm all Jennifer-Lawrence-humble like that. I was thinking an unknown Irish designer (because that will give me more to talk to Joan Rivers about when she asks the inevitable "Who are you wearing?") but before I commission an Avant-garde piece, I'm considering Irish designer, Don O'Neill's Hollywood glam pieces. I mean, if his slick, beaded numbers have helped Taylor Swift, Oprah, Nicole Kidman, and Carrie Underwood look like winners, then maybe they'll do the same for me ...
Don O'Neill

The name "Don O'Neill" is not as quick off the tongue as some other Irish design luminaries like John Rocha, Paul Costelloe, or Philip Treacy, but you've most likely heard of the Kerry-born, New York based fashion designer's super popular label, Theia, where he serves as Creative Director. O'Neill's designs are everything an Oscar-dress should be – elegant, sexy, classic, Spanx-hiding, and chic. Best of all, the shiny bits will distract from my but-wait-I-didn't-even-write-anything ramblings.

I'd probably get an award just for looking so glam. Good thing because I won't have time to write with all the Zumba classes I'll need to take to fit in to one of these gorgeous gunas. And then there's the shopping for Zumba ...

Feb 14, 2014

Grá agus Ainmhian/Love and Lust

I thought I would share a few current (Irish) loves in honor of Valentine's Day. Hope your day/weekend is filled with tulips, truffles, and tenderness. I'll be watching a romantic movie—"Beginners" starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer, drinking wine, and eating Middle Eastern food. What's not to love? 

Claire Molloy uses hair from the manes of her horses (which she breeds) to embellish her beautiful ceramics. Love the subtle textures of this heart chain ornament.  ClaireMolloyCeramics.etsy

Eily O'Connell is my new jewel crush. I have very strong down-on-one-knee feelings for her work; it's organic, unexpected, and so very cool. Will def be featuring more soon.

Helen Steele's designs are bright, bold, and colorful. I'm all about prints and Steele's are like wearable art. Love her fluid shapes and edgy-but-easy style. Sigh, I need an Irish shopping trip.


Feb 10, 2014

Emma Manley, SS 14

I've been under the weather the past week, literally and medically, and even waving at my computer seemed as easy to do as finding true love on a reality show (not easy at all, but there's always hope). So I've been laying about, watching movies, dosing myself with stuff to destuff, and generally slacking off. I'm back in business today and the first order of business is to avoid any real business and escape a little longer with a virtual shopping spree. I have been wearing the same heat-tech cords, snowboots, and flannel shirts (okay, pajamas) for weeks now and I am suddenly craving STYLE.

Fuck winter.

I want to bare a little skin/style in a cropped, sleeveless leather top from Irish designer Emma Manley, with a flared knee-length silk skirt with very cool leather center panel. I want to wear a swingy, teal chiffon skirt with a metallic leather peplum top. Actually, same metallic leather top begs to be worn with every other bit of clothing in my wardrobe; it'd look great with skinny jeans for my birthday, tweedy skirts for work stuff, and even those Japanese cords that supposedly prevent frostbite at the dog park. That Emma Manley has a knack for luxurious but wearable clothing. 

I kind of want every single top in her SS14 collection, from the casual-chic wool and linen jumpers, to the studded and perforated leather jacket/top, to the fun patent-leather and silk blouses. I'll take a swingy skirt, or two, too. Oh, the teals, the navys, the clays, the metallics! The chiffons, the silks, the leathers! Oh, I think I will double-up the cough meds and take this spree from virtual to reality ... with me finding true love and hope for soon-to-come spring days.

Jan 29, 2014

The Gloaming

It's cold. I'm old. I curse to myself when I have to go outside. My daily soundtrack is all the more important in this weather – especially when I need to act like I don't even notice the cold (scandalously ripping off hat and gloves in subzero temps and smiling provocatively at cosseted drivers as if I feel sorry for their wimpy, fat bottoms), all so people who think I am pathetic for never learning to drive feel pathetic themselves for never learning to walk in anything but perfect weather. Do I sound bitter? It's not me, it's the bitter cold. You'd swear I was digging ditches or working the railroads in the cold. I'm lucky to have decent cold-weather gear and a roof over my head and a dog with the manners to poop early in the walk so I don't have to take my gloves off fifteen minutes out. I don't take any of this for granted.

Still, the soundtrack is essential to keeping you moving—on wheels or legs—in the depths of winter. I've been listening to audio books for much of the winter: The Luminaries, The Valley of Amazement, The Signature of All Things, and Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy have braved the cold with me, and sometimes sat with me long after my walks as I have thawed over a pot of tea. I need to find some Irish audiobooks, with Irish narrators, to walk with me, and need to scour Audible and iTunes (and maybe, see if there is an Irish audio book site?), but for now I'm mixing it up with new music.

Nialler9 is my go-to when I need to know everything I am missing in Irish music, which is usually everything. This morning, a post introduced me to the Gloaming, a group I made a (promptly misfiled) mental note of a few months back when I heard mention of them on NPR.

The group includes three Irish artists—singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, legendary Clare fiddler Martin Hayes, and Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh (playing hardanger fiddle)—and two American musicians, guitarist Dennis Cahill and pianist Thomas Bartlett. The band performed their first tour in Ireland in August 2011 including a sold out debut show at The National Concert Hall, Dublin. Summer 2013 saw much-heralded concerts in London, Amsterdam, Paris, and New York. I missed all that activity because my head is—depending on the season—in the sand/snow, but not to worry because the Gloaming have just released their debut album.

I've been listening to the Gloaming on Spotify this morning and it is incredible. At first listen, it's exciting and new, and at a deeper level, familiar and old. The music is at times spare and abstract, with the musicians pulling and stretching traditional and contemporary boundaries to create something truly special. Pulls at the heart, and warms it, too. The perfect winter soundtrack.

The Gloaming on FB
Real World Records
Download The Gloaming on Amazon or iTunes

Jan 27, 2014

Sminky Shirts at Hairy Baby

Hairy Baby

Like Tommy-look-how-fasht-I'm-going Turtle, I was a bit Shtone Mad For Shpeed at the end of last year and somehow missed the exciting news that Sminky Animation and Hairy Baby have teamed up to offer a range of Sminky shirts and products.  From "All He Wanted Was a Bit of Cheese" to "Aren't I Pure Daycent?," all the characters that made Sminky such a huge online hit are now part of the popular HairyBaby T-shirt line.

Sminky ShirtsSminky Shirts
Sminky ShirtsSminky Shirts

What I love about both of these Irish companies is that they are authentically Irish, so much so that you have to be Irish, have close Irish friends/family, or have lived in Ireland at some point to truly get the humor. It's insider humor, simple and subtle—brilliantly so. 

Sminky ShirtsSminky Shirts
Sminky ShirtsSminky Shirts

I might be too late for Christmas but it's never too early to think St. Patrick's Day. If you want to act the real deal, you'll leave the Kiss-Me-I'm-Irish stuff to the amateurs and show your true colors with some daycent Irish garb (and support two Irish businesses while you're at it.) And there's no need to limit yourself to shirts; all Sminky T-Shirt designs are available as totes and mugs, too. That's right, that's right, that's right, that's right ....
Sminky ShortsSminky shorts

If you need more Sminky styles, check out Sminky Animation's own selection of tees (and corresponding videos) at Sminkyland.