Five Irish Craft Makers To Watch Plus A $100 Shopping Spree Giveaway From USofIreland

In Ireland something of a mini revolution is taking place. The creative and design industry is beginning to find a growing audience of buyers looking for something different outside of the obvious.

Being Irish means something, especially to anyone who has a cultural connection to Ireland. It’s a sense of ancestry and home, even if you have never visited the country – you can still feel it.

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So it’s understandable that this is reflected in the types of Irish products that sell the most. However, there is also a different Ireland.  The influence our creativity has had on popular culture cannot be diminished.

  • Think of writers like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Brendan Behan & Frank McCourt;
  • Musicians like Luke Kelly, Van Morrison, Christy Moore & Phil Lynott;
  • Actors like Maureen O’Hara, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Day-Lewis & Richard Harris.

All of these people, and so many more were, and are, blessed with creativity.

From the ancient etchings of the Ogham language to intricate modern carvings of wood furniture – creativity is unmistakably an Irish trait. It’s in our blood.

UsofIreland

 

Introducing USofIreland:

 

USofIreland is a website that brings together independent makers across the island of Ireland under one roof, and offers these makers and artists a platform to showcase and sell their products to a wider audience outside of Ireland.

Their aim as makers living and working in Ireland today, is to show our cousins around the world that we more than hold our own in the creativity stakes. Don’t rule us out!

We have picked out 5 makers on our website we believe are very much ‘Ones To Watch’.

Whilst it does feel slightly like choosing a favorite child, every maker on the website has their own story to tell. Here are just 5 we picked:

 

John Nolan

 

Preoccupied with color, John Nolan is an artist based in Dublin. His exuberant style combines bold outlines with bright exotic shades. His interpretation of various motifs transmits a positive upbeat feeling to his viewers. His motifs include Fish, Flowers, People, Birds, Still Life, Abstract, Collage & Landscapes.

By John Nolan

By John Nolan

Tracy Gilbert

 

Tracy is immensely proud of being Irish and is fluent in her native Irish language. Her aim is to intertwine this pride with imagination to create beautiful jewelry designs that reflect Ireland artistic and mythological heritage. Clever design, quality materials and craftsmanship are the cornerstones of Tracy’s creations.

By Tracy Gilbert

By Tracy Gilbert

Siobhain Steele

 

Siobhain designs and makes a range of ceramic vases, bottles and giftware, which are carefully hand decorated to evoke a sense of simplicity and serenity. Inspired by the abstract line and patterns found in the lush natural landscape surrounding her studio in Rathcormac, Co Cork.

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By Siobhain Steele

Conor Lynch

 

Teenager Conor Lynch is a woodturner based in rural Co Offaly. He started woodturning at the age of eleven after seeing a demonstration. After turning twelve, he bought a lathe with his confirmation money. Largely self-taught, he is now considered one of Irelands emerging makers working in turned wood.

By Conor Lynch

By Conor Lynch

Scribble & Stone

 

Scribble & Stone is a contemporary and unique Irish fashion label based in Dublin. The “Scribble” in the title refers to their love of illustration and to the quirky graphics and scribbles across tags and packaging. The “stone” refers to gemstones which are an important component in many of their pieces. This combination creates truly unique fusion jewelry pieces.

By Scribble Stone

By Scribble Stone

 

The Giveaway:

 

James Galvin, the Chairman and Co-Founder of USofIreland, has generously donated a $100 shopping spree on their wonderful website, for one of Irish American Mom’s readers.  And so, in essence you can pick your own prize. The winner will be free to spend $100 on the item or items of their choosing from the vast array of unique and beautiful works of art available from USofIreland.

To enter our giveaway just click here. The terms and conditions are outline on the entry form

The competition is open until midnight October 31st, 2014. 

A winner will be chosen randomly and notified by e-mail.

Best of luck to all our entrants and a big thank you to USofIreland for sponsoring this fantastic prize for Irish American Mom’s readers.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Irish American Mom does not have any business relationship with USofIreland and did not receive cash payment for publishing this guest post.  The purpose of this giveaway is to help spread the word about Irish artists. Thank you to all who support Irish and Irish American crafts people and their wonderful enterprises.

Oreo – Our Soccer Loving Border Collie

I love border collies. Their intensity, energy, loyalty and intelligence simply amazes me. In a previous post I introduced my love of these amazing canine companions, but I have failed to update everyone on how our very own border collie puppy, Oreo has become a really important part of our family.

Border Collie - Panting

And here she is!  All grown up!

 

Puppy Toilet Paper Trouble

Do I remember those puppy days?

Remember? Will I ever forget?

She was into everything.

Nothing was off limits.

 

Border Collie Puppy - Toilet Paper Play

But who could be mad at such a contrite cutie?

 

Soccer Agility - Border Collie

Whenever you hear tell a border collie has energy,

whatever you may imagine that energizer level might be,

just double it in your mind.

Hey, go ahead and triple it.

If a border collie is not kept busy, mischief is in store.

 

Border Collie Makes a Save

But lucky for us we soon discovered our dog LOVES soccer.

She’s the best goalie in our house!

 

Soccer dribble border collie style

She dribbles!

 

Border Collie Soccer Header

She’s great at headers.

 

Border Collie Scores A Goal

She even scores!

Call me a crazy dog mom, but I believe she understands the concept of goals.

 

Border Collie Cool Down

And after the game, a good old cool down is in order.

 

Border Collie Eyes

 What do you mean star soccer players can’t nap on the couch?????

 

Border Collie On The Couch

Don’t worry! I wasn’t napping.

I’ve been herding flies just for you.

 

Hope everyone enjoys the finals of the World Cup today. I’m not sure if Oreo will be shouting for Argentina or Germany. May the best team win.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

“Hope In New York City” – A Young Adult Novel By Cynthia G. Neale

Hope in New York City: The Continuing Story of The Irish Dresser by Cynthia G. Neale tells America’s story, through the eyes of a young Irish immigrant, Nora McCabe.

Today I am delighted to introduce you to the second installment in an Irish American trilogy for young adult readers.

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In this book we experience Nora’s struggles, her inner turmoil and homesickness, and her journey towards becoming an American in the midst of prejudice and hardship.

Nora does not merely seek a new land, a roof over her head or a new nationality. She yearns deeply for a familiar sense of home. Through her daily struggles, she learns true belonging exists in the human spirit, and in the love of family and friends.

It is important to remember the Irish Famine, especially for those of us with family ties to the Emerald Isle. This book offers young readers meaningful and realistic insights into the experience of Irish immigrants as they arrived destitute on America’s shores.

Cynthia Neale is a talented writer, who progresses her tale in a lively, lyrical style. I admire her ability to write historical fiction in first person, present tense.

It’s many years since I could be classified as a young adult reader. The now familiar “YA” term didn’t even exist when I was a teenager.  The books of my youth were mainly written in third person, past tense, making this novel the first book written in first person, present tense, I ever read.

At first I found this point of view and tense a little off-putting, but Neale’s mastery of her story, and her skillful descriptions of the dangerous streets of New York, captured my imagination. With each page I turned, she reeled me in with her gripping narrative, and detailed imagery.

I quickly found myself deep within Nora McCabe’s young mind, coming to understand and empathize with her homesickness, yet wishing for her to let the past go. I cheered as she learned to open her heart to her new city, and to connect with her new neighbors.

I may be an old fashioned, traditional reader of 3rd person, past tense historical fiction, but by the end of this book, I came to appreciate the power and urgency of present tense storytelling. I now understand how immediate action and narrative can draw a reader in.  In this book, the dark and dangerous streets of 1840’s New York came to life.  I traveled hand-in-hand with Nora, learning to navigate and survive in her new and perilous world.

I did however have two minor issues with this book. Nora’s last name, McCabe, was not an appropriate choice for a family from County Cork. As an Irish person, I associate the name McCabe with the counties of Ulster rather than Munster.

In addition, the dialogue in this book did not reflect the nuances of Cork people’s conversations.  The word “wee’ was used too frequently. It is an Irish term for the word little, but is seldom used in Cork. It is heard most frequently in the northern counties of Ulster. These minor issues would probably go unnoticed by 99% of readers, but since my entire family hails from County Cork, the characters of this book were not true Corkonians for me.

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The Trilogy:

 

This sequel continues Nora’s saga, which started in The Irish Dresser: A Story of Hope during The Great Hunger.  Nora crawls into an old dresser to escape from Ireland to America and the devastation of the Irish Famine. Inside her dresser on board ship, Nora learns to turn hope into reality.

The third, and most recently published volume in this series, is Norah: The Making of an Irish American Woman in 19th Century New York City. Here our young heroine frees herself from the limitations of poverty, gender and class as she learns to overcome corruption and exploitation.

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A single volume or this complete trilogy would make a perfect Christmas gift for any young adult reader interested in history, their Irish roots or the making of America. I highly recommend these books for young students of Irish and American history.

 

Cynthia G. Neale:

 

Cynthia Neale is an American with Irish ancestry, who frequently travels to Ireland, and is keenly interested in the tragedies and triumphs of the Irish during the Famine. She grew up in Watkins Glen, New York, and now lives in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter.

 

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Cynthia G. Neale

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I love this explanation of her writing style from her official web page:

“I seek to sew my stories together with the unbreakable golden thread of hope.This golden thread oftentimes is a rare and buried treasure that has to be found with great tenacity and prescience.Hope can come lilting and skipping throughout lighthearted and humorous stories, whether they are written for adults or children.”

Wishing Cynthia every success with this wonderful trilogy of Irish American tales.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

Winners Of The MyIrelandBox Gifts

A big thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s giveaway for two surprise craft boxes from MyIrelandBox.  It was lovely to hear what makes Christmas special for each of you.

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The November craft box was won by:

 

Holly:- “My favorite ornament is always the shamrock, in honor of my Dad.”

 

The December craft box was won by:

 

Karen O’Brien:- “My favourite Christmas trinkets are homemade ornaments (made from bottle corks) dated with the year. Always nice when decorating the tree and seeing how far we have come.”

 

MyIrelandBox-SQUARE-ICON

 

Congratulations to both winners. I will send e-mails to arrange delivery of your prizes.

A big thanks to everyone who commented and supported this giveaway, and to MyIrelandBox for sponsoring the prizes. Best wishes and happy Christmas to all.

 

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)

 

Irish American Mom

Kerry Or Irish Apple Cake

Kerry Apple Cake, also known as Irish Apple Cake, is a moist cake with a crunchy top, and can be served cold or warm with chilled cream or custard.

An Irish Apple Cake is technically not a cake at all.  Apple bread is a better description, but I suppose our ancestors assigned the title cake to any baked good with a little bit of precious sugar added.

Known as Kerry Apple Cake in many parts of Ireland, I thought it was high time to share my recipe, especially since we took a lovely photo tour of County Kerry in an earlier blog post this week.

This cake was traditionally cooked in a bastible, a black wrought iron cooking pot.  The bread was covered in the pot and hung over the fire to cook.

I remember my granny’s kitchen in County Cork, with a black iron kettle singing over the fire, or the bastible cooking potatoes or bread.  The day the open fire was replaced with a big range, complete with oven and cooktop, has left an indelible mark on my memory.  On that day I witnessed the end of an era. But that’s a story for another day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4oz butter
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 or 4 large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (to sprinkle on top of cake)

The apples I use are Granny Smiths.  If I was in Ireland I would use Bramley cooking apples, the best apples in the world for baking.  But alack and alas I can’t find my favorite cooking apple here in America.

But why are they better than an eating apple, you may ask?  When cooked they retain a lovely tangy flavor, and with heat develop a pefect ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ texture, since they contain more acid and less sugar than other apples.  Granny Smiths are my chosen substitute when baking this cake in America, because they are the tangiest of American apples I can find.

You’ll notice I stuck one small apple into my ingredient shot, just to prove every apple is not created equally.  They come in all the same shapes, but different sizes.  The amount of sliced apples used is key to apple cake success so really check your apple size. Three apples means three large Granny Smiths.  If you can only get small apples, then you will need to use at least six.

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a 9-inch round baking pan by spraying with oil or coating with butter. 

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt, cloves and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl.  Trust me – you need a big bowl, because once the sliced apples are added you’ll have a large amount of cake mix.

I like to prepare the flour and rub in the butter before I peel and slice my apples.  This avoids adding browning apple slices to the cake.

All-purpose flour works for this recipe, but I prefer cake flour.  This lighter flour produces a softer crusted cake, which better resembles an apple cake made in Ireland.

You’ll notice I don’t use any cinnamon.  I prefer to add a hint of cloves and nutmeg, spices more closely associated with apples in Ireland. If you can’t imagine cooked apples without cinnamon, feel free to toss some in.

When I first came to America I was overwhelmed by the amount of cinnamon used in so many breads and cakes.  It took many years for my taste buds to adjust to apple pie with cinnamon.   Irish apple pies or tarts are made without spice or with a hint of cloves.

Cut the butter into the flour and rub it in using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. 

I confess I don’t own a pastry cutter.  Throughout my childhood I watched my mom and grannys rubbing butter into flour using their bare hands, so there’s no modernizing me at this stage.  You can’t teach an old horse new tricks.

If you use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, I would increase the amount of butter to 6 ounces.  This helps keep the crust from getting too hard.

Next toss in the sugar and mix it through the flour.

Now it’s time to wash your hands and prepare the apples.  Use a minimum of 3 large apples, but in my opinion, it is hard to have too much apple in this cake, so feel free to add an additional one.

Peel and slice the apples into similar sized pieces. 

My apple slices are about 1/4 inch thick.  Lie each slice flat and cut them into triangular quarters.  The thinner rectangular side slices can be cut in half.

Some cooks like to dice the apples into smaller pieces and add walnuts.  I prefer larger apple slices and as my granny would have said – “It’s far from walnuts you were reared.”

Toss the apples into the flour mixture and combine them thoroughly.

My advice is to work quickly because apples turn brown pretty fast.  The faster they are covered in flour mixture the better.  You can see how my apples are beginning to go a little brown at the edges, but I did have to pause to take photos.

Beat the eggs and add a dash of milk.  Add to the apples and flour and combine well with a large spoon. 

Add more milk as needed to fully moisten the flour.  The result is a pretty sticky dough.

Transfer the dough into the prepared cake pan and flatten the top surface using the back of a large spoon.

I use a 9-inch round pan.  An 8-inch round pan will simply yield a taller cake.  However, moving up to a 10-inch round pan is not advised.  With these specific ingredient ratios, the cake would be way too flat.

Next comes the final touch for a crispy top layer.

Sprinkle two tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cake. 

In Ireland I recommend using caster sugar, but regular American sugar is just perfect.  Regular Irish sugar is far grainier than the American variety.

Bake the cake in the preheated 375 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes.  A toothpick or knife will come out clean when it is cooked and the top will be a lovely golden brown.

Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire wrack to finish cooling.

I love to see the slices of apple peeping through the top layer.  Just yummy!

My family love this cake served still slightly warm.  Lovely with butter melting on top, or a dollop of cream or smothered in custard, you’ll certainly be licking your fingers and asking for seconds.

Hope you all enjoy this little taste of rural Ireland.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom