Pleasure List: Break for biggest summer festival
Increasingly at this time of year, just as you might be wondering what to do with the kids until September, a host of festivals are popping up, guaranteed to while away a congenial day or two. Biggest of all is the Laya Healthcare City Spectacular, a glorious glut of free music concerts, international performers, family picnics and a food village.
What was once a boutique, slightly eclectic event - the Street Performance World Championships - confined to Merrion Square, has grown and morphed into a major event, now spread across three weeks in Dublin and Cork, running from July 11th-27th. Last year, 300,000 people turned up to watch jugglers, tumblers, puppeteers, poets, bards, sword swallowers, stilt walkers and acrobats compete in a riot of colour and hilarity. including plenty of audience interaction. This year, a petting zoo has been added, along with a chance to chuck pies in parents' faces, courtesy of Ray D'Arcy's Kids' Court. A spot of retro-action with the Today FM Irish Summer area recreates the classic summer experience of our childhood - red lemonade, 10p bags and wind breakers will take you straight back in time, while a host of workshops - of both the educational and fun varieties - and near-constant music from the Booka Brass Band, The Young Folk and the fabulous Interskalactic, a 10-piece ska and reggae band, tie it all together into one giant family-friendly festival. And if you need to be reminded just how far family fun in this country has come, head back over to the red lemonade and wind breakers for a moment of reflection.
Posh up your picnics with some delicious streetfood
Summer is the season for eating outdoors: picnics in the park, dinner deck, brunch on the beach, and gone are the days when a few sandwiches and a bottle of pop will do the job. In recent weeks, we have seen people merrily unpacking entire roast chickens with green salad and a bottle of chilled white from stylish hampers, or sparking up a DIY BBQ and cooking rare breed pork sausages with a side of homemade slaw.
We're not going to call them the al fresco wars yet, but there is a clear competitive edge to all this. If you're in, Marks & Spencer might just be the place to go, with a range inspired by bars, restaurants and street food from around the world, including Chicago, Tel Aviv and Mexico City. Last year's summer hit, Posh Dogs, have been bite-sized into Posh Puppies, miniature American-style smokey hot dog sausages, while chicken wings have been jazzed up with Mexican tequila and Sancho pepper. For a healthier kick, try the beetroot balsamic vinaigrette crisps, or soy seed and nut mixes.
Collect a grasshopper at the Cross Gallery
The Cross Gallery on Francis Street represents a host of fine artists, including Clea Van Der Grijn and Andrew Folan, under the expert directorship of Nicholas Gore-Grimes. Currently catching the mood for growing interest in 20th century furniture, and pursuing a long-standing interest of his own, Gore-Grimes is launching the Cross Collection. Featuring a selection of mirrors, lights, chairs and tables, all notable examples of 20th century design, this is an opportunity to see well-designed everyday objects elevated to the status of art. Among the highlights of the collection are a 'Grasshopper' floor lamp by Greta Grossman, and a two-tiered brass and nickel metal coffee table by French designer Guy Lefevre. Also well worth a view are a pair of elegant vintage teak rocking armchairs by Ole Wanscher, one of the leading figures in the Scandinavian Design Movement that has had such huge influence over the way we consider the form and function of furniture.
Happy World Chocolate Day
Tomorrow is World Chocolate Day (please, not to be confused with International Chocolate Day, which as we all know is September 13th). This means you have - if indeed you needed it - a very fine reason to indulge in the most glorious vice of them all. Except that actually, do it right, and eating chocolate becomes far more virtuous than vicious. At its best, chocolate is full of antioxidants, can reduce blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar and, of course, encourages the release of feel-good endorphins. In fact, a good dose of chocolate will apparently mimic the effects of being crazy in love, without the invariable heartbreak.
So, in celebration of the day that's in it, we suggest upgrading from the usual bar or biscuit, and going for something at the luxury end. Try an award-winning Butler's hot chocolate, made from liquid chocolate rather than powder, and available in various incarnations. We particularly love the chilli hot chocolate - just like the Aztecs used to make it, or so we fondly imagine. Or grab a bar of ethically-traded, hand-made almond & orange dark chocolate. Better still, book in for the Butlers' Chocolate Experience, a chance to go the whole distance and see how it's all made by heading for the factory floor and starting at the beginning of the Butler's journey.
Afternoon tea at Lissadell
"The light of evening, Lissadell, great windows open to the South". And now those windows, and that house, are open to the public again, after a five-year legal battle, which will no doubt soon be forgotten in the general pleasure at being able, once again, to explore this beautiful house and grounds. Get ready for a lengthy visit; this is no duck-in-duck-out attraction.
As well as a guided tour of the house, built in the neo-classical Greek Revival style, you can visit the alpine garden, Victorian kitchen garden, Countess Markievicz exhibition, Yeats exhibition and more. After all that, or perhaps before it, afternoon tea is much needed. The Lissadell tea rooms are handily close to the entrance, and serve a selection of delicious, wholesome country fare, much of it fresh from the estate's kitchen gardens.
Scones, quiches, salads, homemade jams, chutneys and preserves - try the apple and chilli jelly, a good twist on an old classic - with a cup of tea or perhaps a glass of French wine. There are even oysters from their own oyster beds. This is teatime, in impeccable Big House style.
Set your house in order
Unless you exist on an entirely different plane of perfection, you, like the rest of us, undoubtedly have a secret stash of clutter.
We don't mean bundles of broken bits and pieces you can't get round to throwing away, but rather the many perfectly-fine-but-unused items that take up space in our lives. These are the clothes you don't wear or that don't fit, items you never use (sometimes still in their original boxes . . .), books you have read and won't read again, gifts that were never really for you. Well, the time for action has come. Forget spring cleaning, this is summer cleaning, in aid of Oxfam, with the assistance of Breda Stack, de-clutter therapist.
And yes, it is a form of therapy. Just wait and see how good you feel once the weeding-out process is done. As Stack says, "clutter is anything physical, mental or emotional that doesn't serve us or make us feel good. By letting go of anything that doesn't enhance our life, de-cluttering helps us to make room for better things." So, read Breda's rules at www.thedecluttertherapist.ie (chief amongst them: "if in doubt, it needs to go"), be ruthless, and donate your excess to Oxfam, who will sell them and generate money for many excellent projects. Remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure. This is even more true of women.
Sunday Indo Living