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. 

Jan 15, 2014

Present Tense

How is it mid-January already? I've been so busy of late that I haven't had the room to truly acknowledge the new year. I've had a bit of a delayed reaction. Of course, the good thing about not having made any new year's resolutions yet is that, for once, I am not failing to keep them. You could say that I am right on track. That feels good. Anyway, I think I am now ready to start paying attention. I really don't want this month, and year, to just slip away without my noticing. Maybe that's my resolution – to be more mindful and present.

2013 was good to me. I had many adventures and gallivants, and many great moments. Looking over my shoulder at it, 2013 was the year that I started to settle into myself, the way fat long ago settled onto my thighs. Comfortable. There to stay. I had lots of work and lots of play. I swam with dolphins, climbed Mayan ruins, ziplined, karaoked, zumbad, read a lot, drank a lot, went to some great concerts, appreciated a lot, bought a little black (leather) dress, got a beautiful little black dress as a gift (only a woman can appreciate the magnitude of two LBDs in one year!), helped a kid apply to college, and held the McCarthy Cup. I also settled into story ideas that will occupy my 2014.

2014 is starting, here and now, with me being mindful of the fact that my living room looks like the horrifying "before" of a Hoarder's episode. I just bought new shelving so I am hibernating between piles of books, watching Downton Abbey, and crying for Lady Mary. (Snotty sniffle, gulp, wail, "Matthew!") I might use this new-shelf opportunity to weed out my collection, but it is more likely that I will simply re-read it. At some point this week, I will have to start slowly stocking my new shelves. Can someone please explain to my family that it is not as simple as just plopping books where there's a space. You have to spend a lot of time looking at pictures of bookshelves first. Thinking about "allowing the eye to rest," symmetry, and color coding vs arranging by size/theme, and then you have to put books on the shelves, sit on the stairs for hours staring at them, and then take them all off again because you are useless. You should break up the books with plants. Suddenly you are researching terrariums and maybe there is not enough room for books. Maybe you need more shelves? Why would you take on such a "spring" project in the depths of winter? The odds are stacked against you ... not that you can tell with all the other stuff stacked around you. 

Spin-off projects are already making me dizzy. Repurposing old shelves. Rearranging kids' bedrooms to accommodate the spillover. Framing photos and art to display on new shelves. Even just getting the tape measure out of the kitchen cabinet suggests a cabinet-reorganization. I have the nervous energy that I always get at the end of an assignment. I go from being crazy busy to just crazy. To make sure I don't channel that energy into exercising, I usually take up a few new projects or crafts. I once finished a job and the same day bought several pounds of industrial felt. German industrial felt. I made ornaments and a cover for my computer and tried to make slippers and then took a screenprinting class and printed "Watch this space" all over the felt. In hot pink. Then I made notebooks that I covered in felt. I have also rebounded from work commitments with yarn and paint. Speaking of paint,  I think I am going to paint my bedroom this month. Something dark and dramatic, Abigail-Ahern style. I also need to create a gallery wall. Okay, I'll stop being so present now. This is starting to feel like a list of resolutions and I'm falling behind.

Exhale. It's only January. There's plenty of time. Happy new year to you.