Tag Archives: Irish

Time Out!

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I stepped off the treadmill for a few days, and had a ball.  Ireland has so much to offer, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy it.

Every year I try to make it to the biggest event in rural Ireland’s calendar – the National Ploughing Championships.  Urbanites and sceptics listen up: this is an event for everyone!  Where else are you likely to see grown men and women, complete with coats, bags and boots, grab a partner and dance to live music at 11 in the morning?  There’s fashion shows, cookery exhibitions, crafts and artisan food, alongside every possible agricultural necessity, all expertly laid out on 800 acres of walkways.  And that’s all in addition to the ploughing itself.  Is it going too far to say it’s the highlight of my year?  I don’t think so – I just love it!

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

Not a great picture, but you can get some idea of the 80,000+ people who visit the show daily.

By the time you’ve walked all 800 acres, maybe more than once, and reached your car, you’re more than ready for that traditional Irish ‘tea and sandwiches’ before setting off on the road.

This year, we stayed over in Tullamore, and I’m delighted we did.  Next day, we went exploring one of Ireland’s hidden treasures: the somewhat eccentric Charleville Castle, just outside Tullamore.

This year will see it celebrate its 200th birthday - still young, in terms of castles!

This year Charleville Castle celebrates its 200th birthday – still young, in terms of castles!

After the guided tour, complete with details of the castle’s colourful past, and current ghosts, we headed for home.

Next day was busy, with Castleblayney’s 2nd Annual Fair Day underway.  A fantastic event, the town steps back in time, with shopkeepers and visitors alike arriving in traditional dress, and memories from yesteryear taking centre stage. Horses, goats, sheep, cattle and donkeys share the street with traditional crafts, vintage vehicles, old shop records, and street traders.  It’s a sight for sore eyes.

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

Bygone days in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan

And finally, have a look at what I picked up at the Car Boot Sale in the wonderful Iontas Centre, in Castleblayney, on Saturday morning…

One of a pair of stained glass window panels.  Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

One of a pair of stained glass window panels. Irresistible to me, naturally enough!

The day ended with an 18th birthday party, which went on well into Sunday morning!  Any wonder it took me a while to get back onto that treadmill on Monday morning?!

 

 

Dublin Showcase a Host of Irish Talent

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Just back from a trip to Dublin’s RDS, which annually invites Irish artists, craftspeople and fashion designers to showcase their work to buyers from all over the world.  This is a trade fair, not open to the general public, but it is instead an opportunity for wholesale buyers to see what is new and exciting in the creative arena here in Ireland, and to place their orders for the year ahead.

What a wonderful venue, and full to the brim of humbling talent.  As my friend, encaustic artist Niamh O’Connor, and I strolled round the stalls, we spoke to many of the exhibitors.  For some reason, my impression was that the majority of the stallholders were women, and it is, of course, wonderful to see women forge ahead in such exciting and creative fields.

There are several halls exhibiting the more established businesspeople, as well as up and coming artists.  Monaghan, where I’m from, was well represented, with batik artist Louise Loughman, weaver Liz Christy, Brenda McGinn of Busy Bee Ceramics, and fashion designer Helen Steele, all busy with buyers.

Silk painter and batik artist Louise Loughman, at Showcase 2013.

Silk painter and batik artist Louise Loughman, at Showcase 2013.

There really is something for every taste at Showcase.  Fashion is stunning, with a catwalk parade twice daily; there’s woodwork, stonework, sculpture, ceramics (check out Sarah McKenna and Ian Carty), visual art (Breda Marron and Patricia Murphy come to mind), textile art (my own favourites were Breda McNelis and Bernadette Fox), jewellery design, furniture design, home decor, giftware, soap and candle makers, and so much more.

My own special interest is, of course, in glass, and I wasn’t disappointed!  There was stained glass work, blown glass (check out the work of Kerry Crafted Glass – blown 100% recycled glass), and plenty of my medium, fused glass, on offer, with gorgeous work on display from artists Jonathan Ball, Louise Rice, and my own favourite Maura Whelan, amongst others!

If you can beg, borrow, or steal a pass, make it your business to check out Showcase in Dublin’s RDS … at the very least, you can look online at www.showcaseireland.com.  And don’t forget, it’s up to all of us to support these businesses, by buying local and buying handmade.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Things have been very busy for the last few weeks, with lots of glass to get ready for all the Christmas shops popping up around the country.

I’m delighted to have my handmade fused glass on sale in Galway’s ‘Granny Likes It’ on Abbeygate Street…now open!

You can always find it in the gorgeous Glasson Craft Gallery in Co. Westmeath, just outside Athlone.

And now, I’m thrilled to be included in Dublin’s newest retail outlet for quality Irish art and craft… the tasty Irish Design Selection in the Westbury Mall, off Grafton Street.

With so much making, baking and boxing going on, the studio became a very busy spot. Here’s a picture of my constant companion, and would-be helper, Pip the poodle!

Pip the Poodle

It’s a dog’s life!

A Little Bowl of Sunshine on a Wintery Day

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Any of you who really know me will know that I’m a BIG fan of the Irish lifestyle store, Avoca.  I love everything about Avoca, specially their Kilmacanogue store, and most especially the FOOD!

So here’s one of Avoca’s great recipes from their first cookbook: Tomato, Lentil & Orange Soup.  My only complaint about it, is that it doesn’t make enough soup to satisfy a family, so I usually triple the ingredients!

This soup is gorgeous, and simple to make.  It’s good enough for lunch, for dinner, for a special starter… it’s even good enough to cheer anyone up on this miserable, wet, wintery day!  Make it, and enjoy!

1 onion, peeled and chopped
50g butter
1 orange
1 garlic clove, peeled & crushed
400g can chopped tomatoes
50g red lentils
300ml vegetable stock

Gently cook the onion in the butter for 10 minutes without browning.  (Meanwhile, grate the zest from the orange, then peel it, and chop the flesh.)
Add the garlic to the pot, stir, then add the orange zest and orange pieces, along with the tomatoes, lentils and stock.  Stir the pot, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked.  Stir from time to time, so the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Puree in a blender, then reheat gently and season to taste.  You may need to add a little boiling water, as it gets pretty thick!

Dress with chopped fresh mint, if you have it, and serve, for instant warmth!

Tomato, Lentil & Orange Soup

A little bowl of sunshine for a winter’s day!

 

Lunch in Galway

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McCambridges of Shop St., Galway

Lucky lunchtime feasters!

Just the quickest note. Delighted to share my new foodie find…the wonderful McCambridge’s on Shop St in Galway.  Thoughtful food served in a great atmosphere by efficient and helpful staff! I had a delish salad with tuna, pine nuts, leaves including basil, and asparagus – more for a feeling of luxury than anything else – with a tahini dressing.
For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a very tempting island laden down with lovely-looking bakes, but I resisted!
That’s the good news. But the reason for my pitstop trip to Galway is to collect some glass pieces from the amazing ‘TANK Granny Likes It‘ pop-up shop on Upper Abbeygate St. The shop is the brainchild of businesswoman Rona O’Reilly, and no doubt her TANK emporium of Irish craft will be popping up again soon!
Watch this space!

A Rainbow of Food in a Typical Irish Summer!

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With one fabulously sunny day in an Irish summer likely to be remembered as something of a washout, there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in my mind…it was time for a barbecue.
I should explain here for those who don’t already know me…I’m a foodie. A ‘gastronaut’. A gourmande. A connoseur of fine food – and drink. Or so I like to think anyway!  In short, I love food!
Like most of us, I think, many of my childhood memories include food, and all celebrations involve feasting.
Well, the rare appearance of the sun is as good an excuse for a celebration as any other, and a barbecue at our house is always a feast fit for a king!
I could talk about the meat, and yes there was meat aplenty. Chicken, burgers, sausages, and our very own lovely lamb chops. But my favourite part of a BBQ is the salad assortment, and that’s what I’m going to share with you today.
I always make a mountain of potato salad, using Avoca’s recipe. It’s the family’s favourite BBQ accompaniment, without a doubt. I took the first new potatoes of the season, scrubbed but not peeled, I boiled them, and while still hot, dressed with a little French dressing. Then you just add mayonnaise, maybe some fresh mint if you have it, and a dollop of natural yogurt to keep it fresh-flavoured.

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Next, my favourite…taboullet. Call it what you like, but it’s gorgeous and easy peasy to make. If you’ve never considered Bulgar Wheat, then it’s time you did. It’s like a crunchier version of cous cous. Just boil the kettle, pour over the grain and leave it for 15 minutes. It’ll have plumped  up and be ready to eat. I added loads of chopped up fresh coriander and mint, little cucumber cubes, lemon juice and a bit of dressing. Plenty of black pepper of course. Yum yum!

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Time for a bit of colour.  Just throw whatever tinned beans you’ve got into a bowl. I used kidney beans, but you can use chick peas, black eyed beans, haricot beans or even a tin of baked beans – rinsed – if you’re stuck. Rinse your beans in a colander first, then throw them in a bowl with a chopped up red pepper, a stick or two of celery chopped fine, a crushed clove of garlic, a rinsed tin of sweetcorn, and a splash of French dressing.  Mix it up, and admire the rainbow colours just waiting to be gobbled up!

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Next for a little experiment.  I recently enjoyed a delicious dinner at Concra Wood Golf Club, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, of pork ribs served with a side of celeriac coleslaw.  It was delicious, and I resolved to try it at home.  So I peeled and grated a celeriac.  A what?  It’s the fat, ugly cousin of celery.  Looks a bit like a turnip with acne, poor thing, but tastes great!  Anyway, I grated a carrot or two, and mixed the two together with lashings of mayonnaise, and a bit of lemon juice.  Next time, I’ll grate even finer, but the taste was good!

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With a mixed green salad, and a few cherry tomatoes, I was happy without even the meat! A big glass of shandy – or Panache as our gourmet French friends call it – rounds it off as a serious summer feast. Who needs the Sun?!

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Fortstock Festival, Clones

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Hi, this is the start of my new blog… the thoughts that come into, and hopefully, out of my head from time to time!

My name’s Grace, and I make fused glass.  Ok, confession over!

Last weekend, together with some fellow artists, we descended on Clones with a pop-up art and craft shop, to coincide with the inaugural Fortstock Music Festival.  With all the hard work done, my friend, encaustic artist Niamh O’Connor and I were standing behind the till, when we were asked to be interviewed for Shannonside Northern Sound radio, 94-98FM!

Tonight, Tuesday’s Business Show, hosted by Claire Noble, is aired from 8-9pm. Don’t miss it!

Fabulous@Fortstock, Clones, June 2012

Fabulous@Fortstock, Clones, June 2012, featuring some of the ‘Fabulous’ work of Monaghan’s artists! These included Liz Christy, Louise Loughman, Niamh O’Connor, Roisin Duffy, Catherina Donaghy, as well as my own King’s Forge Glass!