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Monday 16 November 2015

Did you know? There was Rules of mourning?!

Did you know? There was Rules of mourning?! I mean what now?!

The twenty-fifth edition of the "Rules of Etiquette and Home Culture" published in 1893 explains how the longest mourning for a widow should last a period of two years. During the first year of mourning only black wool was to be worn, without any trimmings or jewelry. Black silk with white collars and cuffs was worn during the second period of mourning, which lasted six months. Grey, white, and violet could be introduced during the last six months of mourning.

In days past, the rules of behavior for mourning were well known and rigorously followed.  Today? Not so much.....but there are definitely some people who still 'follow the rules'.

There was a Catholic etiquette book written in 1962:

Case in Point: JFK's funeral-
A day of national mourning was declared for President John Kennedy. His widow wore traditional black BUT ALSO - One in mourning does not go to large public functions, balls or dinner parties. He does not dine out in restaurants or go to parties. He also does not host parties or social functions in his home during the mourning period.

ALSO - He may dine with friends in his home. He may continue such sports as he has always played, but his costume should be dark-colored and suitable to the game he is playing.

ALSO - A widow or widower should not accept or offer attentions to the opposite sex for a year.

These standards were strictly maintained through the Civil War period and even into the beginning of the 20th century in higher society and good families. Many people, however, began to adopt the more practical custom of simply wearing dark clothing to express their mourning and this continues through to today's funerals across the world.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Top 21 pubs in Ireland

The MUST visit Bars in Ireland according to BUT in 2013 and while I agree and disagree with names on this list, I want YOUR opinion - have you been to Ireland, where did you rate or not?? Would love to know!

1. O’Loclainn’s, Ballyvaughan

2. Hi-B, Cork

Source: YouTube
3. O Riada’s, Kilkenny
Source: Shadowgate

4. The Hatch Bar, Kildare

Update: We’ve been informed that The Hatch has closed down. But DO NOT DESPAIR: McEvoys is literally just across the canal.

5. Mulligan’s of Poolbeg St, Dublin

Source: infomatique

6. Tigh Neachtain’s, Galway

7. O’Connells, Portobello, Dublin

Source: Keo the Younger

8. O’Shea’s, Borris

9. The Long Hall, Dublin

Source: peterme

10. Nancy’s, Ardara

Source: sludgegulper

11. Downes, Waterford

12. Matt Molloy’s, Westport

Source: young shanahan

13. L Mulligan Grocer, Stoneybatter, Dublin

Source: bsii

14. Kenny’s of Lucan

15. Smugglers Creek, Rossnowlagh

Source: WolfHo

16. Tom Barry’s, Cork

Source: Glass of Win

17. The Lord Edward, Dublin

Source: fhwrdh

18. O’Connell’s, Galway

Source: Facebook

19. The Blackbird, Ballycotton

Source: aidancasey

20. Foxy John’s, Dingle

Source: ach10
21. Geoff’s, Waterford

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Top 10 places to visit in Ireland

According to the website here are the top ten places to visit in Ireland. We agree and disagree at certain places.....

1. Boyne Valley

Brú na Bóinne (the Boyne Palace) County Meath contains some of the most important historic sites and monuments in Ireland.

It features the megalithic ancient passage tombs (graves dating back to ancient times) - of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. These tombs are older than both Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

Newgrange, which was built about 5,000 years ago, is Ireland's most famous prehistoric site.

NOTE: The Hill of Tara is also in Co. Meath.

2. Ring of Kerry

Ancient monuments, romantic castles, spectacular gardens and colorful towns and villages! What's not to love?!

3. The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs stretch for almost 5 miles and rise up to 702 feet over the waters of the Atlantic ocean. A beauty to behold!

4. Giant’s Causeway

The Giant's Causeway is a fantastic part of Irish Folklore. It tells us that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool once lived in the area, and from across the sea he could see a Scottish giant, Benandonner, his rival, whom he had never met. Finn challenged Benandonner to come to Ireland to fight. Because no boat was big enough to carry the giant, Finn built a causeway of stones in the water so that Benandonner would be able to make it across. When Finn realized the Scottish giant was far bigger than he had expected, he fled to the hills where his wife disguised him as a baby. This move foxed Bennadonner because he thought that if the child was that big, the father would be even bigger. Benandonner fled back to the Scotland, ripping up the causeway behind him, so that Finn wouldn’t be able to follow him.

5. Aran Islands

Inishmór, Inishmaan and Inisheer.......The frozen-in-time, we-aint-changing-for-no-one islands are famous for their preservation of a rural existence largely unchanged, at least culturally, over the centuries and They.ARE.Fabulous!

6. Guinness Storehouse

Apparently this is a must see (I disagree) but a trip to Dublin's most popular tourist attraction is pretty much compulsory for any self-respecting guinness drinker in Ireland's capital. (I say go to the Jameson Distillery!!)

7. Trinity College Dublin

Ok so I am going to be biased about this as I went to DCU and hell that college ROCKED! BUT I do get that there is historical fabulousness to Trinity - for example - the college is best known for the Book of Kells (how cool is that!!) but it is also worth going there to check out the Long Room of its old library -apparently, this room was the inspiration for a room called the Jedi Archives, in the movie, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” - WOWSA

8. The Burren

Its got limestone, flowers and all sort of fabulous nature-y things. DO it!

9. St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Ireland’s largest church, is also one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin and its in the city centre so christ go visit - go on, go on, go on!

10. Croke Park

Croke Park is the HQ of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the sporting body responsible for Hurling and Gaelic Football, which are Ireland's national games.

Friday 23 October 2015

Frank E Campbell NYC, Funeral Home to the Stars

Anybody who is anybody in NYC and has lost a loved one knows the name Frank Campbell. Maybe they haven't even lost a loved one but just attended one of the many hundreds of funerals they service a year. Regardless the name Frank E Campbell Funeral Home is synonymous with Upper Class, Celebrity, Manhattan Elite and more importantly privacy and an almost Genie like funeral. They grant the final wishes of the elite akin to the late great Robin Williams of Aladdin in the Disney movie.

Frank and his funeral home first attracted international recognition in 1926, when a famously beloved on screen silent movie romeo Rudolph Valentino died of a ruptured ulcer at the tender age of 31. The crowds at the funeral were huge...and dramatic. There was a rumor that Frank had replaced Valentino's body with a wax figure because the crowd of fans became so maniacal. A little known fact was that Frank had paid some of the mourners to faint and swoon at the funeral to garner more coverage in the media. A bit like the keeners we had in old Ireland, Frank used some seriously innovative PR moves to engage the media and it worked. Apparently he also took out a $1 million insurance policy on his 15-year-old son, Frank Junior, making him "the most heavily ­insured boy in the country". His use of publicity, engagement of the media, innovation in the industry and advertising his funeral home built his home and name to what it is today.

Frank began this innovative voyage long before Valentino's funeral however and has even been credited with starting the purchase of obituaries in newspapers and of adding chapels of all faiths to a funeral home, something which is only hitting Ireland in recent years. When Frank founded the Frank E. Campbell Burial and Cremation Company in 1898, he attempted to change the way people thought about funeral service. At that time in America, most funerals were conducted in private homes, but New York was becoming a city of apartment dwellers and people no longer had space. He actually started it in Downtown Manhattan but Frank was a socialite in all the right circles and soon recognized his niche in the market and moved to the current address in the Upper East Side. He also began to use motor vehicles instead of the typical horse drawn carriages to carry the deceased. His innovative legacy continues today even though the funeral home is currently not in his family anymore but a part of the industry giant SCI.

“We make sure our entranceway is taken care of properly without having the family being inundated,” George Amato, current president of Frank E Campbell says. “In the building, we have a private elevator and a private floor for the visitation that takes place. We have our security men on the front door checking the people arriving to make sure they are on the list, and they are escorted properly upstairs.” Mobile or cellphones are banned from the main chapel. Simple additions but all add to the security, privacy and comfort for families of the rich and famous.

The home has catered for a huge variety of 'sombodies' including Heads of State, United Nations Ambassadors, Dignitaries, Royalty, and Celebrity members of the arts and entertainment world. The staff are well equipped in a variety of languages and religions and there are 3 funeral counsellors or 'experts' on site who are educated in everything from coffin sizing, decor, religion specifics and repatriation legalities. In total there are 53 people on staff but they regularly hire in extra staff on a regular basis such as off duty NYC police officers as security.

In 1969, when the beautiful and beloved Judy Garland died, as many as 1,500 fans stood vigil outside Campbell’s during a vicious NYC heat wave. Judy Garland's visitation lasted over 24 hours, some people coming through to pay their respects 3 times - up to 20,000 fans went past her glass-enclosed ­coffin to view her in repose. Mourners included Lauren Bacall (who became a Campbell's client when she died aged 89 on Aug 11th last year) , then-Mayor John Lindsay, Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Garland’s daughters, Liza Minnelli and Lorna Luft. In another PR stunt, the press was not allowed access which of course just heightened the appeal and intrigue.

Such is the association with Frank E Campbell's and Celebrity that when John Lennon was assassinated in 1980 the media presumed that they would be handling the arrangements, and camped out there. Such was the media mayhem that a decoy hearse had to be sent for the media to follow, which they did and Mr Lennon was transported to be cremated in peace.

George Amato says one of the most complex funeral arrangements in recent years involved the accidental-overdose death of 28-year-old ­actor Heath Ledger in January 2008. "I was very closely involved with the people who were hand­ling him, because he was going to be sent to Los Angeles and then Australia," Amato says. "There was the Warner Brothers private jet that was being used for him and the family, so there was a lot of coordination to make sure that it all went exactly the way they wanted it, and we had to maintain the privacy and confidentiality that they wanted."

In terms of crazy requests George was not willing to divulge too much and with good reason. Confidentiality is their number one promise. However families can dictate whatever they want, and Campbell’s promises that no legal request is ever denied. When asked what requests he could tell me about, he told me of  a time where a family requested a highly exotic and rare flower. Money was no object and rarely is, so I'm told. The funeral home's response? "if it is growing somewhere on this earth we will find it and get it to you for the service." And they did. At another service, a request had been made for the deceased’s two Doberman pinschers to stand at the foot of their master’s casket. They did and they never moved or barked.

The home deals with 'celebrity' in different ways too depending on family wishes. For example the recent Joan Rivers funeral was extremely private and had a guestlist whereas the recent Governor Cuomo was large and open to the public and they had to close down 79th to 86th street for 18 limousines to transport family and dignitaries from the home to St Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue in Midtown (a HUGE deal and irritant to New Yorkers). Then when Vice President Biden wanted to pay his respects the entire cathedral had to be searched and locked down for the visitation which is a huge security task.

Campbell himself died on Jan. 19, 1934, at age 62 of heart disease.

The list of clients reads like a Who’s Who: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Robert F. Kennedy, Ed Koch, Judy Garland, Leona Helmsley, Ed Sullivan, James Cagney, Greta Garbo, George Gershwin, William Randolph Hearst, Malcolm Forbes, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, L’Wren Scott, Heath Ledger, gangster Frank Costello and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Last spotted at the Frank E Campbell Funeral home include:
Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
Pedro Armendáriz, Jr.
Arleen Auger
Herman Badillo
Lauren Bacall
Irving Berlin
Peter Boyle
Lord Buckley
James Cagney
Oleg Cassini
Montgomery Clift
Frank Costello
Joan Crawford
Walter Cronkite
Celia Cruz
Mario Cuomo
Candy Darling
Thomas E. Dewey
Dominick Dunne
Jeanne Eagels
Malcolm Forbes
Billy Martin
Greta Garbo
Judy Garland
George Gershwin
Adam Goldstein
Lesley Gore
Rita Hayworth
Leona Helmsley
Jim Henson
Philip Seymour Hoffman‪
Richard Isay
Peter Jennings
Madeline Kahn
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Mordecai Lawner‪
Heath Ledger‪
John Lennon
Dick Lynch
Mary MacLeod Trump
Norman Mailer
Bat Masterson
Ethel Merman
Anna Moffo
The Notorious B.I.G.
Les Paul
Ayn Rand
Tony Randall
Joan Rivers
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen
Jean Stapleton
Igor Stravinsky
Ed Sullivan
Arturo Toscanini
Fred Trump
Rudolph Valentino
Luther Vandross
Mae West
Tennessee Williams
A$AP Yams

Tuesday 15 September 2015

The Ideal Death Show

Ideal Death Show and Good Funeral Awards 2015

So this weekend took me to London. A little outside of london is a quaint little English village called Winchester and for one day it becomes the hub of death in the UK. The Ideal Death Show, in its second consecutive year, brought fun, facts and deathly frolics.

Their approach to death seems to be quite tongue in cheek but factual which is nice and the village seem to embrace it.

First on my agenda was a public shrouding of  a live body. I’ve got to say I did not expect to get as emotional as I did when watching it but it seemd like such a beautiful personal final act for someone you love. I have often thought that coffins seem too impersonal – cold, detached and lonely. The shroud looked warm, comfortable and protective. The personal act of wrapping your loved one just seemed like you were caring for them like you would a newborn baby.

The fact that it is friendly for the environment and compatible with both burial and cremation was appealing also.

My disappointment of the show was the size of the exhibition. I expected a lot bigger. It was tiny and everyone looked a bit squished on top of each other. This made it difficult to collect your thoughts from one stand to another. There was the usual exhibiits and some unusual ones like a Viking Wicker Ship maker.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Mourning/Cremation Jewelry - the origins

Mourning Jewelry as it was once called (in some parts of the world, still is) is a general term for jewelry that people have used over centuries as a way of honoring and remembering deceased loved ones. It has been around since the 1600’s and the earliest known pieces were hand rings. Pearls were particularly favored as they were thought to represent tears and sadness.

Cremation jewelry began to gain momentum during the Victorian Age - named after Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. Victoria’s husband Prince Albert died of typhoid in 1861. The Queen went into full mourning for 3 years along with her court and remained in mourning for the rest of her life. The Victorians were extremely superstitious, especially where death was concerned and hung black drapes over all the mirrors in the house when in mourning. It was said that if you looked into a mirror when a body was in the house, you would be the next person to die.

The first style of cremation jewelry involved intricately woven hair. Today, most people use a piece of hair or some cremains or ashes as they are more commonly known. Historically hair ‘art’ often served as a love token or keepsake to show affection or commemorate loss or during times of physical separations like war. When people died, hair was often clipped from the head of a deceased person and then woven into a bonnet that would be given to the next of kin.

Nowadays hair is still used in keepsakes and remembrance jewelry but it is more common to use ashes or cremains. The type of jewelry we ( offer is bespoke and entirely unique to the wearer and the deceased because it fuses the ash (which for every single person is different) with glass and this fusion creates not a mold but a unique shape, texture and color.

Sunday 19 July 2015

Cremation - the facts - do u want to know tho??

CREMATION  is the irreversible process of reducing human remains to bone fragments through extreme heat and evaporation.

“Cremains” is the technical term for “ashes.”  Cremains are generally gray in color and have a consistency similar to playground sand or fine gravel. The term "ashes" is misleading.

What you get back is not a soft powder, but a grey, coarse material, akin to fine gravel, made from the ground-up remains of bones.

The body is prepared by removing pacemakers, which can explode in the heat, prostheses and silicone implants and sometimes, but not always, jewelry.

The incinerator is preheated to about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (593 degrees Celsius) and up to 2,000 degrees F before the body enters.

An average human body takes from two to three hours to burn completely and will produce an average of 4 to 9 pounds of ash, enough to fill a 12″X 4″ container.

The amount of ash depends usually on the bone structure of the person and not their weight.

After the incineration is completed, the dry bone fragments are pulverised by a machine called a Cremulator.

While there may be some inevitable residue mixing, the bodies are burned one at a time to ensure the separation of the cremated remains.

To remove the human remains from the cremation chamber, a hoe-like instrument is used. Every effort is made to completely remove every piece from the chamber floor. However, tiny particles may remain in the cremation chamber and become commingled with particles from another cremation.

Most funeral homes return cremated remains in a small cardboard box fitted with a plastic-bag liner. You do NOT need to purchase an urn because ANY container, including the simple cardboard box, is sufficient for storage purposes.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Playing the drums

So I'm in Starbucks in Baltimore yesterday and Facetiming regarding an upcoming conference for my jewelry and when I hang up the gentleman sitting beside me starts up a conversation about my accent and his Irish heritage. We get into it pretty thick and he divulges some personal information about his parents' deaths and their funerals and how his daughter never met his father, her grandfather.

It's amazing when strangers make a connection, even a quick one. What I thought was cool was he was telling me about his father's funeral and how they had wanted to play the drums but the priest wasn't too happy about it. They decided to do it anyway and he told me about how the sound reverberated through every single person and was so effective and emotional that they decided to go one further and bring the drummer to perform at the cemetery. Apparently the sound echoed for miles. How amazing is that? What a send off! I would never have thought of drums for my own funeral but now I'm thinking bring it on! Sounds like the best way to go out with a colorful bang!

Sunday 8 March 2015

Facebook Legacy Settings

Social media is everywhere these days and it even stays with us in death. We can create memorial pages for loved ones, document their lives via video and photo and now as of February 12th Facebook have followed Google and announced a new policy – Legacy Pages.

Previously, if a person died without someone else knowing their password, there was no way to make any changes. The most awkward of this was the daily reminders to ‘friends’ of birthdays, friend suggestions etc even though the person would never accept the friend request or see the brithday message as they wre deceased. The only way to delete the account was to know the passowrd or show a death certificate and practivally fight with Facebook to close the account.

Now, however, while you are still alive, you name someone else you know on Facebook to be your legacy contact. That person can make changes to memorialize your account. 

This includes:
Writing a new post/status to show at the top of the memorialized Timeline – maybe some information about a memorial or service.
Respond to new friend requests from family and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook .
Updating the profile picture and cover photo (sometimes this is needed where the updated photo is a bit more approriate).

So how can you use this new ‘Legacy’ Setting’?
Open your Facebook SETTINGS tab, choose SECURITY and then LEGACY CONTACT at the bottom of the page. After choosing your legacy contact, you’ll have the option to send a message to that person letting them know what you’ve done.

Monday 26 January 2015

An Eco funeral

What is an Eco Funeral?

Eco means reducing the amount of C02 that will be produced from your funeral.
Think about the suppliers you will use, the products you will buy and how you can reduce, reuse and recycle. How far will your Suppliers/Supplies have to travel to get to your desired venue? Your funeral can still be everything you desire and have that ‘life celebration’ factor without costing the earth.


  • Can you cut down on travel and have both ceremony and reception at the one venue?
  • When talking with a venue ask them what their Environmental policies are and include carbon footprint, fair-trade goods and recycling in your questions.
  • Does your venue buy local and/or organic produce? Will they offer you an organic alternative if you wish?

Order of Service

  • Try having family sending out the order of service via email
  • Use recycled paper or from handmade paper
  • Ask people to recycle the order of service at the bottom of the page.
  • Use your imagination and give people something creative like something they can use again or even eat!

The Vessel

  • Consider a cardboard coffin, woolen or  bamboo or other biodegradable container 
  • For your dress use organic materials such as silk and cotton bought from fair-trade suppliers
  • Perhaps have your body dressed in a biodegradable cloth such as cotton.


  • Try sourcing local and seasonal wildflowers. This will you cut emissions that would be generated by delivery.  
  • For centrepieces, use oxygen producing potted plants or candles with green foliage.
  • Are the Florists flowers organically grown in season?
  • Do they recycle & compost? Does the florist work with farmers who follow sustainable practices?


  • Choose a green graveyard for burial.  
  • Choose a living marker for your grave plot site such as a tree.


  • Opt out of embalming
  • New upcoming Irish service Ecolation could be the answer for you if you are preplanning a purely ecological end of life exit.