Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday wishlist: Owl-together now

Baby owls. Right up there with baby squirrels and baby seals. A screechingly cute video titled Lovely Owl was doing the rounds via YouTube last week. And it got me thinking about owls.

WEBBED FEAT: The eponymous Lovely Owl has become a YouTube sensation
Barn owl as Gaeilge is 'scréachóg reilige', which translates into 'graveyard screecher'. Spooky! 

The Irish owl (there are three species) are November's species of the month on the info-packed website

They are also the avian of choice in the interiors world, where they're having a bit of moment. 

I have one in my sitting room, thanks to a cushion my mother bought me. The owl is perching on my Eames rocker, a present to myself after finishing a pretty tough post-graduate course.

NIGHT WATCH: My owl cushion sits prettily on the Eames rocker

1. Vintage fabric owl cushion

The owl cushion above (€22 plus €3.60 for delivery in Ireland) is available in lots of colourways (and there's some owl bags too) from the Galway-based Away With the Fairies.

FEATHERED FRIENDS: These owl cushions are among the
selection available from Away with the Fairies

2. Ceramic Owl Coin Bank

I remember an old insurance company radio advert that had an owl as a brand mascot (two-eight, two-eight, two-oh, anyone?). This wise owl with a rather fearsome expression from Etsy's Modclay also has finance on his mind. You can save up using the lovely turquoise Vintage Ceramic Owl Coin Bank (approx €20.10 plus delivery).

HAVE A HOOT SAVING: Turquoise Ceramic Owl Coin Bank
by Modclay
3. Donna Wilson Owl Cushion

Designer Donna Wilson has an eye for the quirky and this owl cushion (available in a number of colours) is on sale at Dublin design shop No Fixed Abode for €70 (plus €6 delivery). Made from 100 per cent lambs' wool, it's very tactile like much of her collection.

FOR YOUNG AND OWL: Donna Wilson's Owl Cushion

For more owl-related goods, see the lovely round-up created by Apartment Therapy earlier this month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Quarter Compounder: Proposed Asian Quarter on Parnell Street

I recently attended a lunch-time talk at darc space on the report 'Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street' by the Dublin Civic Trust (a brilliant organisation). I know this part of the city pretty well and love the community feel, which is embodied at Ozanam House on Mountjoy Square.

It would be great to see the recommendations of the Dublin Civic Trust report (commissioned by the Dublin City Business Association and Carroll's Gifts and Souvenirs) carried out but in these gloomy times the prospect of even widening the footpaths or tree-planting, let alone large scale refurbishment of the historic buildings and redeveloping the scarred sections of the street, seem unlikely.

GLOOMY: The Georgian architecture of numbers 76 to 78 Parnell Street East is almost hidden under layers of plaster and unsympathetic shopfronts.
Image from the Dublin Civic Trust.
VISION OF THE FUTURE: How the report has re-imagined the three buildings, restoring them to their former glory complete with original door.
Image from the Dublin Civic Trust.

The Asian businesses that have sprung up on the street have brought life and colour to the area, making Parnell Street East a culinary (and karaoke!) hotspot. The area would benefit from being designated as a quarter (not everyone likes the idea of having specific designated quarters in the city, but I believe it has worked well in the case of the Italian Quarter), but should it be an 'Oriental Quarter' as envisaged by the report?

A lady who attended the event suggested that, as Smithfield is set to become a food destination and there is no guarantee that the Asian community will favour the Parnell Street East location in the long-run (Capel Street is another growing centre of Asian cuisine), perhaps we should focus on making it a Literary Quarter instead, given the street's proximity to the James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers' Museum, Fighting Words, etc. Indeed, both Asian businesses and literary centres can happily co-exist. Whatever happens, I hope that Parnell Street East will be renewed in the not too distant future.

The report makes for an interesting read, great for a large-scale 'before and after' fix too.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dublin's new tasty pin-up

Dublin's much-loved Cake Café not only serves up baked goods but also has an array of sweet city-inspired designs. The latest item on the menu is this delicious apron cleverly titled Baile Átha Bia. Designed by Pony, it features some of the capital's gastronomic street names, such as Marrowbone Lane, Pudding Row, Cow Parlour and Lime Street, and famous landmarks. Just €12.95, the screen-printed pinny is available in two colour-ways.

BAKE-OFF: It's difficult to choose between the two colour-ways.
Photo: The Cake Café
Other design delights on The Cake Café specials board include this Map of Dublin Tea Towel which seems too pretty to use. I would like to frame this to add to my collection of Dublin-related art and design. At just €6.75 and made from organic cotton, it's the perfect Kris Kindle present / stocking filler.

DUBLIN DISHED UP: This tea cloth features landmarks ranging from the Pigeon House to the Old Guinness Windmill.
Photo: The Cake Café
See a very inventive use of this tea towel on The Cake Café's blog, here.

There's also some rockin' crockery in the beautiful form of this Bone China Plate (€16), a contemporary Dublin take on the Willow Pattern that has featured on plates, mugs and egg cups across Ireland and abroad for manys the year. It's based on a story of star-crossed lovers Bin-Bin and Yo-Yo by Mark O'Halloran (he wrote Adam and Paul, among others), the text of which accompanies the plate.

SERVING UP A STORY: The Bone China Plate shows Dublin landmarks featured in Mark O'Halloran's love story Photo: The Cake Café
These treats are available by telephoning The Cake Café on (01) 478 9394 or, even better, calling in to the eco-sensitive Daintree Building and enjoying a cup of their excellent coffee and choosing some nom nom nom.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pain in the neck

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent days, have slipped a disk in my neck and in a lot of pain. Normal service will resume soon!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pugs and kisses for my new neighbour

He's definitely the smallest resident of our terrace. And the cutest too.

His arrival last weekend was much anticipated and I got to meet the man himself during the week. He is nine weeks old.

This is Bunsen, the pug puppy who belongs to my neighbours, Aeveen and Owen. Incidentally, their stunning house is one of my favourite places to get inspiration for what my home could someday be like.

Anyway, back to Bunsen. I am lost for words to describe how amazingly cute he is. These beautiful photos taken by owner Owen convey how adorable he is.

FURRY CUTE INDEED: Note his black claws and black tipped ears.
Photo by Owen McPolin.

UNLEASH INNER STYLE: Bunsen looks smart in his red collar.
Photo by Owen McPolin.

PUP-ULAR FELLOW: Bunsen impresses all who meet him.
Photo by Owen McPolin.

Bunsen's owners did everything that is advised if you are getting a puppy from a breeder - they contacted a reputable breeder who invited them to see the puppies with their parents in their happy home environment. Sadly, many puppies are bred in terrible conditions in puppy mills. For advice on what to take into consideration when getting a puppy, click here for advice from Irish Cavelier Rescue.

ICKLE PICKLE: Bunsen and myself. Photo by Himself.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OK price at 50% off

I am an enthusiastic fan of all things Orla Kiely, though sometimes I fear that she has put her name to too many items. My house is coming down with all things Kiely.

There's 50 per cent off her aprons on the official website. Thankfully they're laminated, so you don't need to worry about getting messy in the kitchen.

This Giant Tumblers print in blue is my favourite, reduced from £39 to £19.50 (approx €45 to €22.80). Nice idea for a Christmas present.

CLEAN DESIGN: The Giant Tumblers print apron in blue from

Optimum options

Some day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we will knock down the horrible 1970s/80s ground floor extension (which houses our kitchen and bathroom) and build a two-storey extension (we're in so much negative equity already so will be staying here a lot longer than planned) with a larger kitchen and WC downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom above.

I will be getting in touch with Optimise Design, a consultancy that specialises in architecture, interior design and project management. Their 'no job too small' and focus on budget, along with an attractive portfolio, has helped them find success after setting up in 2007.

They also have a Before and After section on their website blog, which is great for when I'm looking for a fix. I particularly the Portobello house (below), which I think I remember being for sale in its original state a year or two ago.

DELICIOUS DESIGN: Optimise Design worked on this house in Portobello - love the black contrast with the white cupboards. Image from

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A stray cat's tale

If I were a stray cat, I would definitely knock on our door. That's exactly what happened on Sunday evening as I was about to leave the house to meet Himself at the airport. Just as I was grabbing my bag from the living room I heard a miaow at the window. The ledge is quite high off the ground so I was surprised to see a cat there.

I opened the front door to investigate. I got a shock. He looked very like our much loved Captain Socks, who was knocked down just before Christmas last year. A very friendly black and white little thing, he ran towards me and curled around my legs. He was crying and followed me inside. Luckily, our own cat Waffles was behind the closed kitchen door. I texted Himself to tell him that I wouldn't make it to the airport. Oh, and I had found another cat on the doorstep. Moses basket, anyone?

PURRFECT COMPANY: Our mystery houseguest
SIMILARITIES: Our much-loved Captain Socks (RIP)
The mystery cat was fed and watered, and spent the rest of the night huddled up beside the radiator. Poor Waffles could smell and sense the house guest through the wall and was not best pleased. But he didn't complain too much. However, Waffles (who is bullied by a local cat) is very much of the one-cat-per-home lobby, as is Himself. Otherwise I would have invited him to stay longer.
So, after a military operation to put Mystery into the cat carrier, we brought him to the local vet to see if he was micro-chipped. Unfortunately, he was not. I can't understand why dog and cat owners fail to put a collar with an ID tag or a microchip on their much-loved pals. It causes so much heartbreak for the owner and frustration for the finder when a pet goes missing.
A LITTLE PUT OUT: Unwitting host Waffles
After knocking on a few doors on the way back from the vet, we rang the DSPCA to see if they had room in their rescue and rehoming facility. Thankfully they did, but this wonderful organisation is under a great deal of pressure with the sheer volume of animals they are helping. I was sad to say goodbye to Mystery. We then postered the local area and a security guard in a local shop thinks that the same cat featured on a lost poster some weeks ago, so fingers crossed they will see one of our posters and get in touch with the DSPCA. We have also used and to put up Found ads for free. He is also featured on the DSPCA's website here. Hopefully this cat's tale will have a happy ending.

To prevent your pet from getting lost, please get a microship inserted by the vet and put a comfortable collar onto them with your mobile phone number and address. There is no point in putting the pet's name onto the tag. Keep cats in at night, as this is when they often go missing. For lots more advice, see the following:

Before and after: My bedroom wardrobes

Creeking, screeching and a sudden crash... the temporary canvas wardrobe just couldn't cope with the weight of clothes. Then another Argos number took its place. Ultimately the ambition was to get fitted wardrobes, as the sloped ceiling, hot press and pipes couldn't be concealed by an IKEA wardrobe, though I would have loved something like...

Black-brown Pax Wardrobe with four doors (€490)

LIGHTS OUT: The panelled four-door Pax wardrobe from
Or... the White Pax Wardrobe with Sliding Doors (€485). 

BRANCH OUT: One of the Pax combinations available from
However, the only option for us what to have something custom-made, so as to hide all the pipes and hot press.

Here's what our 'wardrobe' arrangements used to look like:

THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: Our previous bedroom storage arrangements
 Note the pipes running across the top left-hand corner and top right-hand corner. The doors to the right cover the hot press. As you can see, the rail in my wardrobe in the middle had long given up the ghost, meaning my clothes were scattered here, there and everywhere.

We went to Bedroom Elegance on Dorset Street, Dublin 1, about two years ago on a fact-finding mission but it wasn't until the likelihood of being crushed by a canvas wardrobe began increasing rapidly that we forced to take action.

Another visit to Bedroom Elegance was required last month to finally decide on a design. A very simple white door with minimal detailing that suits sloped ceiling was chosen, along with 'fridge' handles. I think it looks a bit 1950s, which I like. There was a quick turn-around time, with detailed measurements taken the following week (lasers were involved, important given the uneven old walls) and fitting about a week or two later. Everyone we dealt with from sales to measurements to fitting was very friendly and helpful, excellent customer service.

ALMOST FINISHED: The inside of the wardrobes, with additional shelving to be added

And now we have wardrobes that we're really pleased with and that make the most of the high ceiling.

Now there's just the rest of the room to decorate!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Easy peasy lemon squeezy

Cup cakes / fairy cakes / queen cakes / small flour and sugar based round treats... the *secret* Cake Café ... rising star Bake My Cake ... bascially, cakes are on the brain.

I recently made my first cake at home (it's been three years since we moved in!).

New to this game, I choose a simple recipe from the excellent BBC Good Food, Tana Ramsay's Lemon Drizzle Cake

SHIZZLE MY DRIZZLE: Tana Ramsay's Lemon Drizzle Cake
Very simple, but I would add an extra lemon and cut back on the sugar.

Sadly, there's no photo of my attempt. It disappeared rather quickly! 

Here are some citrus-inspired finds on Etsy:

1. Remember cutting out lino (or potato shapes) in primary school? This linocut print ($20) by thebigharumph that puts my younger self's efforts to shame.

STEAL THE LINO-LIGHT: Lemon Yellow Linocut

2. I'm very fond of slogan prints (check out Bold & Noble where each is helpfully sized to fit IKEA frames). This cute tea towel ($15) by Dear Colleen subverts the 'when life hands you lemons' saying to substitute lemonade for a G&T. 

EVEN BITTER: When Life Hands You Lemons tea towel

3. Using Alexander Henry's Juicy fabric, this ironing board cover ($24) by Compelled to Craft has a sweet '60s feel. I love the pip insets.

PIPPED TO THE POST: Ironing board cover

4. And here's something that combines lemons, cakes and homewares: these deceptively delicious lemon sugar cupcake soaps ($3.99 each) by Barringer Bath and Body

JUICE LIKE THE REAL THING: Lemon sugar cupcake soaps

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Front runner

Maybe it's because I used to watch BBC's Changing Rooms obsessively during my teens, but I love a good set of 'before and after' photos. I will be posting up some of my new wardrobes in the coming days.

Via the Guardian, I love how the architect and clients of this London home eschewed re-creating a pastiche of the original Victorian home that stood on the site and instead took direction from its '70s reincarnation to create a sensational 2011 home.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM: The house was rebuilt in the '70s
HOUSE ABOUT IT: How it looks now
I particularly like the lower ground extension at the front of the house, with its huge sunlight and grassed roof. My own (much more modest) home sits on a slope, maybe the solution would be to extend front and under, rather than back and above?

See all the photos (interior and exterior) at the link below:

Christmas 'Mainham

Finding the positive in negative equity (we bought our house in 2008) #1 ... a Christmas market around the corner!

The 7UP Winter Wonderland will be located on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (the site of the Forbidden Fruit Festival in June, pictured below).

MUSIC ROYALTY: Enjoying the Forbidden Fruit Festival at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (By Himself) 
At Winter Wonderland, there will be an ice rink (my lack of coordination rules this out), a circus (have some issues with animal acts) and a presumably free-entry Christmas market (promising gluhwein and other delights). The Spiegel Saloon and Le Cirque are amongst the other attractions.

JINGLE BELLE: Christmas market in Brussels (Via Shutterstock)
The other half's brother and wife live in an amazing house in the heart of Brussels (above), right beside the city's Christmas market at Place Sainte-Catherine. One of the highlights the last time we were at the Brussels market was trying to last more than a few seconds in a shipping container fashioned into a minus-temperature bar.

It will be interesting to compare the two markets.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Cat's Pyjamas

On the sofa, footstool, window sill, crumpled jumper, carpet or that newspaper you're trying to read - our cat Waffles loves to snooze. Though your average house kitty is fond of a good kip, few are clock up as many hours as our five-year-old brown tabby.

Here is a photo of Waffles taken by my super talented friend Nathalie Márquez Courtney - check out her amazing photography here.

WAFFLY VERSATILE: Waffles can sleep anywhere
(By Nathalie Márquez Courtney)

I've been planning on getting him a proper cat bed (though am worried that he will bypass it for our sofa, just as he does the scratching pole!).

Where it not for the fact that there is no option to deliver to Ireland, I would be very tempted to get him a suitably stylish cat bed fashioned out of a vintage suitcase from the Love Nostalgic Whimsy shop on Etsy.

I'm sure Waffles would snooze quite contentedly in this baby blue beauty (€44.84).

WHISK' ME AWAY: Love Nostalgic Whimsy's vintage styling is purrfect (Etsy)

Bird's eye

Every once in a while the other half picks up a cardboard tube with poster inside. The location might be under the bed or in the very much misnamed 'study' (read second bedroom wasteland). He tuts and waves it around accusingly. Another unframed print lies inside, waiting for that special day where a number of things will happen - a suitable frame shall be purchased, the framed print will lean against a specially selected spot of wall, before being hung on a perfectly painted in a room which is *finished*.

While I should be looking into getting electrical jobs done, I have stumbled upon the work of Midlands-based illustrator Alan Nagle of Yellowhammer Illustration. He has created a stunning collection focusing on Irish wildlife, including some winter-themed illustrations. The Yellowhammer Illustration website lead me to his Etsy shop and I used his Facebook page discount to purchase one of his 25 limited edition A4 Swallows Giclee Prints (below).

FEATHERED FRIEND: Coming to a wall near me soon

 I also love his Pheasant Giclee Print...

While writing I discovered that his work is also available at the excellent Irish Design Shop, including this beautiful A3 Otter Giclee Print.

Looking forward to the postman delivering the Swallows print! Then it's straight into frame, unlike the inhabitants under my bed.