These are a few of Alive photographer Meghan Ralston's favorite things.

These are a few of Alive photographer Meghan Ralston's favorite things.

Blarney Woollen Mills - Muckross Button Aran Cardigan

Made of 100 percent Irish merino wool, this little wonder is my go-to spring and fall replacement for a light jacket. They're made in Ireland and shipped worldwide for free. I like them so much I have two.

Kerrygold Butter

I'm allergic to a lot of foods, including dairy, but this stuff is worth the pain. It's made from all grass-fed cow milk in Ireland and then shipped here. Everything in the butter is completely natural. If you're going to eat butter, you might as well do it right. You can find it locally at most supermarkets - I get mine at the Giant Eagle on West 5th Avenue.

"Irish America: Coming Into Clover" by Maureen Dezell

There are lots of books on Ireland and the Irish, but not very many on being Irish American. Dezell does an excellent job blending reportage with firsthand accounts from Irish descendants on both sides of the pond. The book that results is part historical and part personal narrative that seems to strike a common thread for many Irish Americans. She even has a section on the Irish in the Midwest.

Túcan – "Aliquot Strings"

This band is from Sligo, near Northern Ireland. Music from their debut album, Aliquot Strings, is what made me fall in love when I saw them street busking in Galway, Ireland. They combine traditional Irish sounds with flamenco guitar style to create unique music with a technical deftness that is difficult to parallel.

Homemade Irish Brown Bread

Nothing quite compares to homemade brown bread. Use some of that Kerrygold butter I mentioned earlier to top it off, and you've got yourself a mini Irish breakfast. Here's my recipe:

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup white flour, unbleached

1/4 cup bran

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the buttermilk. Stir until everything is combined and bake in a bread pan at 400 degrees until the top of the bread is a lovely golden brown - about 30 minutes. You'll know it's done because the top will rise and the bread will pull away from the sides of the pan.