everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

A Leprechaun Trap and other delicious stuff

As you may know, St Patrick’s Day is coming up on Monday. As a fan of Ireland and almost everything Irish (I’m sorry, Father Ted. I have tried, but I just do not like your show), I thought I would help you out with your preparations this week. I have gathered together some Oirish things that have caught my eye and today, the focus is food. You’re welcome.

First up, the incredible Leprechaun Trap Cake from Megan, who blogs a lot of very cool stuff (not just Oirish cakes) at Not Martha.

First up, attract your leprechaun with the lure of gold. [image from Not Martha]

1. Attract your leprechaun with the lure of gold (and help him out with a pretzel ladder).
[image from Not Martha]

2. Hide a pretzel trap under the gold, so the wee fella falls through. [image from Not Martha]

2. Hide a pretzel trap under the gold, so the wee fella falls through.
[image from Not Martha]

3. Enjoy the magical rainbow cake, with or without your leprechaun. [image from Not Martha]

3. Enjoy the magical rainbow cake, with or without your leprechaun.
[image from Not Martha]

Next, St Patrick’s Day Pancakes from the FashionPlaytes blog. Whilst they are not so quirky, they are very easy to make and I have never seen a batch quite so green…

Yikes. [image from Fashion Playtes]

Yikes.
[image from Fashion Playtes]

And of course I had to look on etsy, just in case. I found these disturbingly named Irish Car Bomb Cake Pops from the shop Bella Roca Cakes. I then discovered that (maybe you already knew this?) the Irish Car Bomb is a drink that was invented in an American bar – by dropping a shot of Baileys + Jameson whiskey into Guinness. And I just gave an involuntary shiver as I wrote that. According to Wikipedia, you have to drink it quickly so it doesn’t curdle. Or you could just get these cake pops instead – they don’t curdle and they include chocolate.

Much nicer than the real thing.  [image from Bella Roca Cakes]

Much nicer than the real thing.
[image from Bella Roca Cakes]

Last, but not least, in case you want to keep your o’snacking healthy – here’s a “pot of gold” for you. But I’ve got to say, I’m more likely to be your friend if you make the leprechaun trap cake than this vegetable combo (although I do like carrots and they are good for your eyes, apparently).

The serving suggestion is to place the "pot o' gold" at the end of a "rainbow" of vegetables, with a "cloud" of ranch dressing.  [image from Spoonful]

The serving suggestion is to place the “pot o’ gold” at the end of a “rainbow” of vegetables, with a “cloud” of ranch dressing. To be sure, to be sure.
[image from Spoonful]

Bon appétit! Or, as they say in Ireland, bon appétit!

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Treats from Ireland

I wrote last week that some friends from Ireland were visiting Australia for the Lions tour, spending this past week here in amazingly sunny Sydney. I haven’t yet processed my feelings about the match on Saturday night, where I was the lone little Wallabies supporter in a block of hundreds and hundreds of Lions fans, but I’ll try to write about it another day.

Anyways, my lovely friend Gavan brought me out a bag of treats from Ireland as an international gesture of goodwill. I’m not sure who started this crazy contest – I have been known to send over hideous Austrayan goodies (mostly to remove them from our shops) from time to time – but this bag o’ crap from Dublin’s finest tourist store has really raised the bar. In fact, it has inspired me to put together a Diddly Dee Oirish showbag for next year’s Easter Show in Sydney. It will go off like a leprechaun in a pot of gold, so it will.

Here are some pics of my gifts – do let me know if you would like to borrow anything…

The bag. Off to a very good start.

The bag. Off to a very good start.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don't mind.

Complete with a tin whistle playing leprechaun, if you don’t mind.

They really would work with any outfit.

They really would work with any outfit.

Roll on, 17 March...

Roll on, 17 March…

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

Probably not so lucky if you actually eat them.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

An unexpected warning on the bag of ShamRock lollies.

I’ll stop there, even though I’ve only covered maybe half of the contents of the bag. But you get the idea. Although, I do need to add one more highlight – I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Tayto, the Irish crisps that backpackers miss so much that they have their family post out boxes to them (well, they used to, until an entrepreneur started importing them to Australia and charging extortionate prices for a taste of home). Anyways, the flagship flavour is cheese & onion and they’re pretty much a national treasure. So, what else to do but release a limited edition treat – embed the chips into chocolate bars and sell them to the general public. I’ve tried it and it’s pretty much as horrible as you might imagine: some things were just not meant to be, Tayto.

Limited edition indeed.

Limited edition indeed.

Huge thanks to my friend Gavan for this bag of treats – I don’t know that I’ve ever had such a thoughtful/generous/funny/scary/sickening gift all in one bag. Now the stakes have been raised, I’m off to find some hideous Australiana to further advance global cultural understanding and tolerance. Or something like that.

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There is no place like home. Except when there is.

So, here’s my last travellin’ post for a little while. A collection of some of the pics from my final days in Ireland – after a fortnight of mostly perfect weather, these last few days have been rainy and pretty chilly, so it’s a good time to head home to the sun. Always tough to leave here, but I have had a fantastic holiday and it has been great to be able to catch up with old friends and check out some of my old haunts. There’s a line in that John O’Donohue poem (‘For the Traveller’, which I posted a few weeks ago) about old friends making it seem like nothing has changed since you were last with them, and that is exactly how it’s been. Whether it’s five years or ten years since I’ve seen some of my Irish mates, they’re the kind of friends who fit like a glove. Some people don’t have any place that feels like home – I know I’m super lucky to have two. Waa waa waa – here are the photos!

Beautiful day for a run in Phoenix Park, Dublin. I tried to get a photo of the herd of deer that live in the park, but from this distance they looked sort of like a pile of logs, so I didn’t think you’d believe me anyway.

Phoenix Park – it’s one of the largest enclosed parks in Europe. Yes, I did double check that fact online.

About 30% of the Phoenix Park is covered by trees, which are mainly broadleaf parkland species such as oak, ash, lime, beech, sycamore and horsechestnut. Yes, that’s from the PhoenixPark.ie website too.

Now THAT’s a Banoffee pie. With about 10cm of cream on top, at Avoca cafe.

The first rule of Cake Club? Talk to everyone about Cake Club, I’d say.

Ah, modern pharmaceutical art. From an exhibition at a Wexford art gallery.

It’s a Jedward chocolate bar. A twin bar, to be precise. The side of the packet says, “FULL ON, CRAZY, JEADLEY!” Yes, really.

Some of the locals saying hello in Wexford.

One of the many pretty thatched houses in Kilmore, Wexford.

Kilmore, Wexford.

Great name.

Ah, country life. Stuck behind this big guy for around 20 mins as it made its way along the narrow roads to the farm.

It’s real and it’s in Dublin. I was too scared to go in, though, so I can’t tell you any more about it.

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Hello, my name is…

Here are some pics from our morning walk in Dun Laoghaire, back in Dublin. (You pronounce it Dun Leary, in case you’re ever in town and want to sound like a local.) Really though, no one could really blame the non-Irish for mis-pronouncing Irish words and names – things here are rarely as they seem, so I generally ask before I try to pronounce. For example, test yourself on these Irish girls’ names: Caoimhe, Cliona, Ailbhe (yes, that’s right: Quee-va, Clee-na, Al-va); and then there are these Irish boys’ names: Daithi and Feidhlim (yep, Dah-hee and Fail-im).  There’s also a boy’s name that sort of sounds like you’re clearing your throat – Cathal (sort of Co-hol). Sometimes I used to think that my Irish friends were making the names up just so they could giggle as I tried my best to sound authentic.

An overcast day at Dun Laoghaire.

Dun Laoghaire walk.

Sure, just more ancient ruins on an emerald island.

And although he isn’t part of the natural beauty around Dun Laoghaire, I couldn’t resist this pic of Crocs Man, in the window of one of the shops there. Unfortunately, he’s not for sale. Although he probably wouldn’t fit in my suitcase anyway, so I think it’s for the best.

Hello, Crocs Man.

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Our day in Galway

We’re over in Galway for a couple of days and here are some snaps from today. The county is in a bit of a state as they drew in the All-Ireland hurling finals last weekend and they have a re-match on next weekend. It’s a very big deal. We are staying at a fabulous hotel here in Galway – it was designed by famous Irish milliner Philip Treacy (you may know him as the guy who created Princess Beatrice’s hideous hat) and is very quirky.

Wandering around Galway…

Nothing says ‘welcome to the G Hotel’ like cupcakes. And they were delicious.

G Hotel’s reception hall & bar feels very Willy Wonka. Or Legally Blonde.

The strangest hotel hallway I ever did see. Pretty much pitch black, but for the little lights near the floor. (And this was taken during the day.)

And probably my favourite pic for the day is this slightly dusty looking politician who didn’t bother making too much of an effort for his campaign posters. I know ‘action speaks louder than words’, John, but so do photographs.

John’s the man. This sign was in a house window, along with a little kitten.

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Five thousand words

No, not really, but five pictures instead. Here are some snapshots from my day in Dublin.

Just doing my bit for Dublin tourism / PR – another beautiful sunny day. Well, the morning was, anyway…

A parking spot specifically for a family, outside a supermarket. Well, it’s either a family, or an image from the movie ET.

An ad for a nursery – the baby on the right appears to be thinking WHO ARE YOU AND WHY ARE YOU SO CLOSE? (And is it just me, or does he look a bit like Mr Bean?)

Latte art by Dublin’s own Ruslan, Irish Latte Art Champion 2012, at the Art of Coffee.

And one of my favourites – my lovely friends found this on the street near some fairly rough apartments here in Dublin (not today, but I couldn’t resist including it in this post). As you can see, it’s a comprehensive list of some kid’s enemies…hopefully he or she isn’t lost without it…

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For the Traveller

I’m getting excited about my holiday, counting down to departure day this week. And since I know I’m not the only one travelling, I thought you might like this John O’Donohue poem too – I think it works wherever you’re travelling, near or far. I first came across this particular poem on the fabulous blog of one of my heroes, Sarah Wilson (you can check out Sarah’s blog here) and since this trip of mine is to Ireland, the connection to John O’Donohue fits perfectly. I love it. You can check out more of the late John O’Donohue’s amazing work here. Bon voyage, travellers!

For The Traveller by John O’Donohue

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in,

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening a conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight.

You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence goes with you,
And if you listen
You will hear
What your heart
Would love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing.

Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you towards
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life;
And the urgencies
That deserve to clam you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home, more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

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Jedward and the Olympic Torch

So, I don’t normally post on the weekends, but this week I saw some big news that needed sharing. Jedward (the real winners of Eurovision in my eyes) carried the Olympic Torch through Dublin. How they got so close without the product in their hair catching fire is a modern day miracle. Here’s a pic and a quote to get the weekend off to a great start.

“Thank you, guys, so much for all coming out and being so Jepic and so Jedicated to the Olympics. Last year we had Barack Obama and this year we have the Olympic torch.”

Totally Jepic, boys. This pic is from the UK MTV website, which featured the story here. But you can read about it pretty much anywhere that covers big news stories. If only these two could actually compete in the Olympics…that would be even better…Keepin’ the dream alive, Jedward!

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Confession: I love Eurovision.

If you have read this blog before, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that I love the annual Eurovision song contest. That’s right, let me say it again – loud and proud: I LOVE EUROVISION! It’s not cool, I know, but I have been a fan since I first saw it and couldn’t quite work out whether it was real. It is real. And it is spectacular.

When you’re all the way on the other side of the world here in Australia, it can be tough to keep up with current European trends – you know, fashion, music, makeup, design etc. And if you watched the Eurovision song contest, I think it’s safe to say that you would form a very strange impression of many of our European cousins, indeed. With costumes and performers and music that often seem like they’re from another planet, nevermind another continent, the contest brings together many countries from Europe to share their particular sort of ‘special’ with the world. And whether they’re singing in their native tongue or in that kooky language of English, it’s often tricky to work out what they’re singing. Which is usually for the best. But the common language is cheesy ballads or techno dance beats, daring costumes, big hair and big smiles.

This year, the 57th annual Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Baku, in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. It’s the home country of last year’s winners – Eldar & Nigar (or Ell & Nikki, as they were rebadged), who won the contest with their captivating duet, “Running Scared”. It featured a lot of arm-waving dancers in white. But that was last year – this year in Baku, the theme is Light Your Fire and the two semi-final shows are on this week, with the grand final on Saturday 26 May. There are 43 countries on display this week in the Baku Crystal Hall and I strongly suggest you check out the Eurovision website to share the magic. There are plenty of photos and videos. But in the meantime, here are some of my highlights:

The lady representing Greece is singing a song called Aphrodisiac. I definitely hear her rhyme it with ‘maniac’, but I’m not sure what else.

These two chaps are representing Austria. They are rappers and call themselves Trackshittaz. Judging by their press photo, they are big with the laydeez of Austria. It is interesting to listen to rap in another language. Sounds kinda like a lot of angry swearing.

Then there is this lady representing Albania. She has a very powerful voice and a bird’s nest full of dreadlocks on her head. A force to be reckoned with.

Oh, and guess who’s representing the UK? 78 year old Engelbert Humperdinck. Uh huh.

Now, this is coming close to my favourite. It’s the entry from San Marino. And I’m not proud to say that I had to look that up to find out that it is also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, located on the Italian peninsula, east of the Apennine Mountains. The population is just over 30,000 and I’m not sure what life is like in San Marino – but their entry in Eurovision is this young lady singing The Social Network Song. And in a rehearsal that I saw, she was using her laptop as a prop on stage.

Not to be outshone, Moldova’s entry looks a little like Colin Farrell.

And then there’s the Romanian entry. Their press photo gives you a pretty good idea of what they’re about. It’s an interesting number, with a foxy lady out the front of a 1980s band jumping around the stage – I think they are playing their instruments, and if so, the guy on the piano accordian should be complimented for his ability to dance around while keeping the music pumping.

For the first time, Ireland will be represented by the same act as last year – Jedward, the spikiest heads in the business. These two boys are like aliens from out of space with their crazy costumes and flammable hair-dos. They do have sweet voices, which will no doubt be tested as they cartwheel and back flip across the stage. Yes, really. I think they came 8th last year, which was a pretty good showing, so let’s hope that they can bring some joy to the Emerald Isle with a top 5 finish in Baku.

And now, the end (of this post) is near, so I’ll leave you with the intriguing entry from Georgia. Anri Jokhadze is the first male to represent Georgia in the Eurovision contest. And he’s singing his pop song, I’m a Joker. Yes, Anri, you’re a joker – I can tell by your press photo. But you’re so much more, according to the lyrics from your song, which include: I’m a joker; I’m a rocker; I’m a shocker; I’m a poker. Also, I’m a talker and straight-walker; I’m a broker, evil-blocker. Then, I’m a slaker, Trouble-breaker, Fortune-maker, Care-taker. And the song ends on a frightening note for all of the HR professionals in Georgia (and beyond): I’m just a womanizer, Let me be your supervisor. You’ve been warned.

If you’d like to find out more about this magical event, check out the official Eurovision website, which is where all of these official pics from the European Broadcasting Union were sourced. I’m excited!

Oh, and this guy is representing Slovakia. I do not know what he is singing.

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Charming

I know that St Patrick’s Day is over and I promise this is the last Paddy’s Day post. Probably. But I just couldn’t hang on to this for a whole year without sharing it…and really, this is so much bigger than St Patrick’s Day. I dare you not to be captivated by the very name of this product: St. Patrick’s Day Corned Beef and Cabbage Charm Miniature Food Jewelry. Just look at this incredible handmade charm – it looks exactly like a bowl of soup that Heather’s grandma makes. (Heather is the lady who crafts the charms, although this one is lacking the ketchup that she apparently adds to the real version of the soup made by her grandma.)

Heather’s online shop is something to behold – whether you’re a foodie, a jewellery lover or just like weird looking stuff, it’s worth checking out. I bet you will find a gift there for a loved one or even a one that you don’t love quite so much. Heather’s shop is called Sweetnsavorytrinkets, which pretty much gives the game away. Mini macaron charms? Yes, please! BBQ ribs or Cheese enchilada earrings? Totes! Jumbo gummi grapefruit necklace? Alrighty!

And another favourite: 1/12th scale Shepherds Pie in a terra cotta bowl. Why? Well, why not?

If you’re hungry for more, Heather’s charm kitchen is open here.

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