Posts Tagged ‘Avoca Handweavers’

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Happy October! From our little Irish home to your home (wherever it may be), we wish you a Spooktacular month ahead!

Of course there are only two months left in 2015…yikes! And this is exactly the time of year when life speeds up…no wait…can it actually get any faster?! So, instead of writing a whole article in this week’s post, I’m doing the first In an Irish Home Roundup. Yep, that’s right…a Roundup!

From decor to travel here are all the things that are on my mind or on my radar at the moment. Most of it centre’s around Ireland or has an Irish angle of some sort…some of it not. Either way, I think you’ll find it interesting.

And, so, without further ado…I give you the October Roundup…(trumpets blaring and drum roll please!):

We’re entering those rainy days of autumn now and these shiny black rain boots from Hunter and this Dusty Parka from Avoca Handweavers are perfectly matched for the weather ahead. The light-weight, knee-length parka is fitted, styled, and has a detachable hood. Great for a morning walk with friends or a wet afternoon on the pitch: super cute!

Rainy Days

Speaking of fashion…I read last month, in Elle UK, about Dublin native Oriole Cullen, the 39-year-old Acting Senior Curator of Contemporary Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She has a BA in History of Art from University College Dublin and an unbelievably fascinating job (not to mention great fashion sense). Check-out this article, Oriole Cullen “How I Got There”, from The Daily Telegraph: Oriole offers sound advice for how she landed one of the coolest jobs on earth. And if, like me, you’re gently guiding your offspring about how to get ahead in this world, you might like to watch this video about Oriole from Bazaar at Work.

While I’m on the subject of strong, amazing, women…here’s a story going round that has me kicking up my Jimmy Choo heels. It seems a group of researchers from the University of Western Australia decided to take a second look at a few Viking archeological remains only to discover that what was previously considered a group of males actually turned out to be a group of males and FEMALES buried with their swords and shields. It seems Shieldmaidens are not a myth! Who knew…I certainly didn’t!?!

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But seriously, this Crystal Amadeo decanter recently caught my eye. I love its flawless and graceful lines. What a gorgeous addition it would be to our/your dining table this autumn. Available at Mitchell & Sons and now reduced from €475 to €380.

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With Halloween just around the corner, our Irish home is already a buzz with conversation about costumes and decorations. Two of these spiderweb candelabra will do nicely…thank you very much Dunnes Stores. Spiderweb candelabra for €25 each.


For year’s I’ve used an eyelash comb (namely a child’s toothbrush, clean of course) after putting on my mascara to smooth out those ugly clumps one gets from mascara. This folding eyelash comb from Tweezerman, called an Ilashcomb, is so much more ladylike. I think it will be my Favourite-Christmas-Gift-to-Give friends this year.

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Like many Irish women, I’ve just booked my pre-Christmas flights to New York! These Plimsolls and this leather backpack from Massimo Dutti will be perfect for running around The Big Apple.

Ease and Comfort

I hear London calling too…especially now that Simone Rocha has opened her first ever boutique at 93 Mount Street, London. Simone, the Dublin raised, 28-year-old daughter of Ireland’s famous fashion designer John Rocha and his partner-wife Odette, has turned a 19th century building and its Queen Anne-style interiors into a bright, warm, two-story space. I hear it’s gorgeous! Known for her unabashedly feminine style, Roche’s shop is nothing short of dreamy! Can’t make it to London just yet? Check out her Facebook page and website.

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Right now I’ve got foraging on the brain. Sure I could step into my own back garden and find plenty, but farther afield things look all the more interesting. That’s why I’m following Wild Food Mary and Forage Ireland for upcoming events and dates.


My latest food crush is on Irishman Donal Skeehan and his recipe for White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut Cake with blackberries has me dying to break out my food processor! Donal launched his own Youtube channel last year to great success. He recently announced that he’s got nearly 250,000 subscribers. I’m not the only one with a crush! Donal’s also got a two-part photography series with Cannon coming up…so check it out. He says anyone can take a good food photograph…so I’ll be watching in an effort to make my photos even better. Maybe I’ll even win Donals’s competition for a new Canon camera!! To be sure, I’ll be checking out his new cookbook Fresh.

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And finally, The Irish Times recently ran a competition for the Best Shops in Ireland 2015. Sadly my friends Patrick Ryan and Laura Moore over at The Firehouse Bakery in Delgany, Co. Wicklow didn’t win (they’re brilliant!) but many other wonderful shops, stores, bakeries, and emporiums did. Print a copy of the article and keep it handy…it’s a great snapshot of things to do if you’re visiting Ireland and wonderful to have to hand if you have the pleasure of living here full-time.


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Ginger Hot ToddyOne of my brother-in-laws is visiting from California. God love him, he arrived with the flu and is truly miserable.

As I type, he’s sitting in the family room next to a roaring fire and the telly {so Irish} and is chasing away his chills with a cozy hot water bottle from Avoca  and a big mug of Ginger hot tea. I offered to make him a hot whiskey but he declined saying it’s still a wee bit early…perhaps at bedtime.

Ginger Hot Tea and Irish Hot Whiskey are both part of the “Toddy” family. A toddy is typically a mixed drink made of alcohol, water, sugar and spice. In Ireland, especially, it’s considered a traditional “cure” for colds and the flu.

Much like chicken soup, there’s speculation as to whether a toddy will actually “cure” what ails you, but does it really matter when you’re feeling awful? Not in my book. This hot, amber liquid will warm you to the bone and make you feel better.

Today’s posting is for Ginger Hot Toddy and Irish Hot Whiskey. Enjoy and be well!

Ginger Hot Toddy

Serves 4


3″ piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

1,000ml/4 cups water

2-3 tablespoons honey (preferably Manuka Honey)



1. Bring the water to the boil and pour into a teapot. Add the ginger.

2. Stir in the honey and let steep for 3-5 minutes.

3. Add a squeeze of lemon and stir again. Just before serving, taste and add more honey and/or lemon if desired.

4. To serve, strain the tea through a tea strainer into four cups. Serve immediately.

Notes: This tea keeps well in the fridge for up to three days and can be reheated in a pan on the hob (stove). (I keep the ginger and all the liquid in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.)

Irish Hot Whiskey

Serves 4


16 whole cloves

2 thick slices of lemon, rind left on but pips removed, cut in half

4-8 teaspoons sugar (Demerara is nice, if you have it)

240ml/16 tablespoons Irish whiskey

1/2 half lemon

freshly boiled water


1. Push four cloves into the four lemon rinds and set aside. Fill kettle with water and bring to the boil.

2. In four heatproof glasses, add 1-2 teaspoons sugar, 4 tablespoons Irish whiskey, and the four lemon slices with cloves pushed into them.

3. To ensure the glasses don’t break, put one teaspoon into each glass and, when that’s done, pour the freshly boiled water into each glass to fill.

4. Stir the water, whiskey, and sugar mixture to dissolve the sugar completely.

5. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice into each glass, taste, and add more sugar and/or whiskey if desired.

6. Serve immediately.

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DSC_0663Oh my gosh! Oh my goodness! These biscuits (cookies) are to-die-for good!!

The first time I made them, they didn’t turn out so well. Silly me, I didn’t chop the crystallised ginger near enough and they were lumpy. The second time I made them, however, I did everything right and even my pickiest eater liked them.

They are a doddle to make. {Which is all the more important in this busy holiday season.} It probably took 10 minutes to mix up the ingredients.

The only hitch is you have to let them rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours before popping them into the oven. Actually, since I’m thinking/writing out loud, these are the ideal biscuits to make while you are wrapping presents…you mix the ingredients, refrigerate, wrap, bake, wrap, enjoy – what could be simpler? Right?!

While you’re busy baking and wrapping, turn up the volume on your computer/iPad and have a listen to this podcast on Irish Christmas food. Eoin (sounds like O-wen) Purcell of HistoryJournal.ie interviews Regina Sexton, food and culinary historian at University College Cork, about the origins of the foods we eat at Christmastime. If you’re not familiar with HistoryJournal.ie {which I was not}, it is an “exclusively online Irish history journal, covering a wide range of topics across Irish history and the wider Irish worldwide community”. 

And, for a bit of cheer to those living abroad, here’s a few of the best 2013 Christmas food advertisements playing on telly.

From Lidl –

From Cadbury –

From Baileys –

Lastly, for a bit of a laugh {you can’t take him too seriously}, here’s a clip of Colin Farrell’s interview with American television late-night-host Jimmy Kimmel about his traditional Irish Christmas.

Avoca Handweaver’s Crystallised Ginger Shortbread

Makes about 16 biscuits


1 cup/130g plain flour

1/2 cup/60g icing sugar

1/2 cup/60g cornflour

9 tablespoon/130g unsalted butter

130g crystallised ginger, finely chopped

30g caster sugar (for top of shortbread)


1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Place the flour, icing sugar, cornflour, and butter in a food processor and blitz until starting to come together, then add the crystalized ginger and continue to process until the mixture combines fully. {I also added a few drops of ice water at this point}

3. Remove and roll into a ball.

4. Roll out the dough to 0.5cm thick. Cut into rounds with a small scone or cookie cutter.

5. Place on a lined baking sheet and allow to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours, then bake for about 40-45 minutes.

6. Remove, and while still warm, sprinkle with a little caster sugar. The shortbread will keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

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It’s official: In an Irish Home is ONE! 52 posts and nearly 10,000 visitors in the first year is pretty good given I had absolutely no idea where this project would go when it began.

What I did know from day one was three things: 1) I wanted an outlet for writing and receiving feedback; 2) I needed to create something outside the realm of mum and wife; and 3) being a committed plan-aholic, I craved a distraction from the growing realisation that our oldest daughter will soon be leaving home (yes, I know it’s still 5+ years away).

A few magazines offered me column space but I’d been down that road before and the deadlines, directed copy, and little or no interaction with readers left me wanting something more intimate and flexible. The blogosphere seemed an ideal fit for all my needs. But how?

The “how” question was overwhelming at first.

How do you start a blog? How do you build a following? How do you know what to write? How do you decide on a blog publisher? How, how, how?!

For a few months I played with ideas and read other blogs. In the end, against “traditional” blog thinking of niche writing and branding, I launched into writing about the things I love (cooking, family, Ireland, gardening and traveling) and decided the rest would sort itself out.

Luckily, things have been great. I settled on WordPress to host this blog and LOVE it! I learned to embed video into a post. I figured out how to use Flickr Creative Commons. I reached out to people I never would have called on. I picked up my Nikon D80. And, I met some lovely, encouraging, people from all over the world.

It’s been a fun first year but there’s still so much room for improvement. For example, my photos are pretty wretched. Somehow I’ve got to learn to use the camera “properly”. Also, I have to write more authentically. The subtitle of this blog is, “What Life is REALLY Like Behind the Hall Door”. So many times I’ve wanted to write about an experience and haven’t because I was afraid of the repercussions. Living in a small community, and having a big voice, can come back to haunt you.

Thankfully, there’s always next year…wait…that’s this year. Oh well, we’ll see what the next twelve months bring.

In the meantime, I hope you will continue this journey of adventure, living between Ireland and America, cooking, raising a family, gardening organically, and traveling with me. Your company is uplifting. Your feedback is motivating. Thank you. Thank you!

And finally, in celebration of a successful first year, here’s a recipe for Rocky Road Biscuits from Avoca Handweaver’s Tea Time cookbook. These more-ish chocolate treats are worthy of any special occasion and they’re absolutely a doddle to make. Enjoy.

Rocky Road Biscuits

Makes 12-15


480g milk chocolate, broken into pieces (I used a combination of dark and milk chocolate)

100g digestive biscuits (works out to be 7 McVitie’s or 7 Graham Crackers)

2 cups marshmallows/80g to 100g (if using large ones, cut them in half)

¾ cup/80g shelled hazelnuts, skinned and toasted


1. Place the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Melt slowly, stirring occasionally.

2. Line a lightly greased Swiss roll tin with parchment paper.

3. Roughly break up the biscuits by hand and put in the bottom of the tin.

4. Dot half the marshmallows and all of the hazelnuts around the biscuits.

5. Pour the melted chocolate over the top, and shake the tin to get an even mix.

6. Dot with the remaining marshmallows over the top.

7. Chill in the fridge until just set. Remove and cut into squares using a sharp knife.

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Avoca Handweavers is my absolute favourite shop  in Ireland. Set up originally in 1723 in Co. Wicklow, as a co-operative for farmers to spin and weave their wool, the mill thrived through the early 20th century and fell into disrepair in the 1960s. It was bought by a Dublin solicitor, Donald Pratt, and his wife, Hilary, in 1974 and has grown from one to ten stores, selling fashion, food, homewares and jewelry. It is not the place you go for twee Irish caps and Aran sweaters. Not-at-all (sounds like not-tat-all) this  is a modern-day Irish lifestyle store and foodhall.

Colourful, unique, fresh, delicious are words to describe today’s Avoca Handweavers. An article in the Daily Telegraph (U.K.), likened it to “a cross between Anthropologie, J. Crew and Urban Outfitters with a large dollop of homespun Irish charm”. I’ve been to all three American stores and rarely buy anything, I have to disagree. Avoca Handweavers is not like an American chain clothing store. It’s far more unique.

I’m not the only one who loves Avoca. Judging by the lunch time crowds (think locals and busloads of tourists), it’s popular with shoppers and foodies alike. I often call in after dropping the kids to school to pick up something for dinner or meet friends in the cafe to share a hot pot of tea and a delicious dessert. Baskets of homemade breads, giant Mars Bar squares, beef stew, broccoli, feta, tomato salad…mmmm, it’s all so good.

When we headed east last summer, right across the pond, I brought the Avoca Soups, Salads and Tea Time cookbooks with us. Now, when we need an Avoca fix, I’m able to whip something up in my kitchen in America in no time at all. It’s not exactly the same but on nights like last night, when I was craving Avoca’s sweet potato and lentil stew, it was great to have to hand.

Put Avoca Handweavers on your list of places to visit the next time you’re in Ireland or checkout their online store for cookbooks, clothing, throws, scarves and more. And for all my Dear Friends who live local…have a slice of mile high meringue roulade with strawberries and cream for me.  Cheers!

Sweet Potato & Lentil Stew

Serves 6


25g/2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, peeled and chopped

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and chopped roughly

2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped roughly

150g/1 cup puy lentils

½ teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

a pinch of ground cinnamon

3 cm piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

400g/14.5 oz canned tomatoes

1 litre/4 cups chicken stock

juice of one lemon


1. Combine the butter and oil over a medium heat, add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes without coloring.

2. Add the sweet potato, carrot, celery and lentils and coat in the oil.

3. Add the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and garlic, toss so they are well coated and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the tomatoes and stock and season with lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

5. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and the sweet potato is tender.

Optional:  Puree briefly, so everything is chunky rather than smooth.  Check the seasoning, reheat and serve.

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