Trinity College in the Springtime

May 5, 2015

trinity-college-dublin-ireland

Two weeks ago, back when it was gloriously sunny and before the monsoon spring rains came, I strolled through Trinity College on my way to meet friends at St. Stephen’s Green. The walk from the Science Gallery entrance through the 42-acre campus and out the main wooden doors of the college is one of my favorite walks. At this time of year, it starts to get crazy busy with tourists, but it’s still a nice mix of students and visitors. I prefer when the students are still in term because it’s fun to remember what it was like to be that age on a college campus.  Trinity College blossoms in spring trinity-college-architecture-big

There are some really striking buildings on campus, some older than others and some more ornate than others.  cherry-blossoms-trinity-college-dublin

cherry-blossoms-trinity-college trinity-college-bicycles-dublin And lots and lots of bicycles locked to every stationary surface possible. Spring is such a special time in the city and while I’m ready for the temperature to climb just a tad, I’m just a little sad to see the newness of spring pass.

Where to Eat Ethnic Food in Dublin

May 4, 2015

Where to find ethnic food in Dublin

There was a time when ethnic food was foreign (pardon the pun!) to Dublin. Even when I arrived almost seven years ago, it was pretty hard to find a good burrito. Now, of course, burritos abound, and we’re getting even more adventurous with Vietnamese pho and Japanese tapas and apparently some of the best margaritas in the world. Thank goodness, says my belly! Sometimes a good burrito is about the only thing that will hit the spot.

So now, without further ado or grumbling bellies, let’s talk about the best spots for ethnic food in the city.

Mexican

When it comes to burritos, I am a die-hard Chipotle burrito bowl fan. We don’t have Chipotle in Dublin, but we have Pablo and I’m equally enamored. Pablo Picante has three locations around the city centre and they’re not quite the same as Chipotle but by far the yummiest in the city. There are other burrito spots in Dublin, and everyone is entitled to their favorite, but Pablo wins for me. And guacamole doesn’t even cost extra!

For a sit-down Mexican meal, 777 has a beautiful interior and award-winning margaritas. They also have great happy-hour-esque deals (did you know happy hour is illegal in Dublin?) like two-for-one margaritas on Mondays.

Spanish

Every so often, Michael and I head out for a date night without a real idea of where we want to go, but with two hungry bellies. My favorite place for atmosphere and food that arrives fast is tapas at Bar Pinxto or the Port House. The two spots are owned by the same people and the menu is identical. They’re just about a ten minute walk from each other, with the Port House on South William Street and Bar Pinxto on the corner of Meetinghouse Square. Here’s the best local tip. On weekend evenings it’s really hard to get a table at the Port House, but Bar Pinxto almost always has tables free.

Salamanca is another Spanish tapas spot, but I prefer the ambiance at Bar Pinxto and the Port House. They have exposed stone walls and are lit almost entirely by candles. They’re great for a date night, but I’ve also been there with my mom and girlfriends before, so they works for all occasions.

Middle Eastern

I have a funny story about Middle Eastern food in Dublin. When I visited Michael here for the first time, before we were engaged and just around our first year anniversary of dating, Michael and I decided to celebrate said anniversary by going out to dinner. Michael chose Kinara, a Pakistani place on the coast in Clontarf. Unfortunately, we kind of ended the dinner in an argument about who knows what, something about our future and what we were going to do with our lives. In retrospect, it was so silly (and we were so young!), but at the time it meant so much and I was really upset. I can’t remember much other than we finished the dinner in silence. I can’t even remember how we got home.

All that to say, I haven’t had Middle Eastern food in Dublin since. Ha! But, I have recommendations for you nonetheless. First, for a romantic dinner (that hopefully doens’t end in an argument), try Chameleon, it’s the most recommended by all my friends for the best cosy, special feel. You can also try Kinara, in Clontarf, Malahide or Ranelagh. Since our visit they’ve added an extensive cocktail menu in partnership with the Blind Pig Speakeasy founder, Paul. For takeaway, we have friends who adore Bombay Pantry. It would be perfect for a picnic! And I’ve been told the chai at Delhi O’Deli is the best going. I have that one on my list to try out very soon.

Japanese

Japanese food has become so popular that both Musashi and Yamamori, probably the two most popular Japanese restaurants in the city, have both expanded from their original locations. Yamamori has three locations around the city – one for noodles, one for Japanese tapas, and another for sushi.

Musashi has two northside locations, one on Capel Street that offers BYOB for a small corkage fee on wine, and another down at the IFSC toward the ferry terminals. If you’re staying at the Spencer Hotel, the IFSC Musashi is a great option in the neighborhood.

Vietnamese

So far as I know, we don’t have tons of Vietnamese food in Dublin, but we do have Pho Viet, which is a local favorite for pho. It’s very convenient if you’re exploring the north side of the city, just off O’Connell Street a few blocks up Parnell Street. Perfect for lunch if you’re at the Writers Museum or up at the Garden of Remembrance.

Italian

Dublin actually has a little Italian Quarter that crosses the River Liffey down past the Hapenny Bridge, north to south, with a collection of Italian restaurants. Two of the best are also two of the more authentic and rustic – Ciao Bella Roma and Terra Madre. Ciao Bella Roma does a great little €10 lunch special that includes a glass of wine. Terra Madre is a teeny basement restaurant with about five tables. The buratta appetizer is beyond creamy and the main dishes are warm and filling.

BBQ

Barbecue isn’t quite ethnic food, but hey, I’m sneaking it into the end of my list. Pitt Brothers does pretty authentic (I’m not much of an authority coming from Maine, but our Texan and Alabaman friends concur) southern American barbecue. Plus, you get free ice cream after your meal! And while we’re on the topic of American-style meat, Crackbird does delicious fried chicken (order the half chicken and you can easily split it between two people).

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Every once in a while, I start a post hoping to whizz through to the end so I can click publish – just so I can get your recommendations. I know I’m giving you some great tips for finding ethnic food in Dublin in this post, but I know there are so many more that I might not even know about yet. And I can’t wait for my local Dublin residents to give us even more tips for ethnic food in the city!

So, if you’re reading this on the day it’s published, check back tomorrow or the next day. I’m confident the comments will be helpful for us all!

Bon apetit!

Are you planning a visit to Dublin? If you’re looking for a place to stay, try Expedia to book your next visit. 

Happy Friday!

May 1, 2015

stephens green

Hello, friends! Happy Friday to you! TGIF! I have to admit, this week was full of ups and downs. We thought we would finally hear about our house, but the update was postponed by the bank again. Snail’s pace doesn’t begin to describe how fast we’re moving on this house!

Last night we had to say goodbye to our chickens. Well, technically I had to say goodbye to them myself since Michael was on a plane to sunny Portugal while I packed them up and wrote their new owners a letter explaining their names and favorite foods. They are moving to Tiglin, an amazing rehab facility in the Wicklow Mountains where recovering addicts will get to feed and take care of them every day. I cried much more than I thought I would when they left last night. Those girls have been such a sweet and squawky part of our little family and it was tough waking up to such a quiet back yard this morning.

On a happier note, I got to spend a lot of time this week exploring some special corners of Dublin and I can’t wait to share them with you soon. I’m resurrecting my One Day in Dublin series and have another Styled in Ireland post coming up, too. It feels like spring really arrived in full force in Dublin this week, and everywhere you look is something in bloom. I spotted the first lilacs and the peonies are getting close. Now if only the temperature would creep up just a little!

I’m about to choose the five winners of the grab-bag giveaway this week. In order to enter, I asked everyone to tell me what they were up to and it was so much fun to hear about your day to day moments. I’d love to hear what you’re up to this weekend. Hugs from Dublin!

And now, internets to keep you company.

I just ordered these sandals for the summer. (Loft is having yet another sale!) I might have also ordered these, too.

Baltimore, and the state of police-civilian relationships across America, broke my heart yet again this week. There’s a lot of rhetoric bouncing around the internet, but these two articles from The Atlantic are especially important and eloquent: Nonviolence as Compliance, and Two States of Emergency in Baltimore.

I love Alex’s clever DIY projects in her guest room makeover. That hanging light! That yarn art!

It may not be warm out, but I’ve started drinking my favorite summer drink – elderflower mint lemonade with Richmount Cordial, the only elderflower cordial made in Ireland.

I’ve been pinning more pink lately and daydreaming about our (hopefully) new house. Not sure Michael will be on board!

This dip-dyed skirt is great, and the whole site is full of talented independent makers.

Loved the new Obama White House china. Yay, teal!

Happy, healthy weekend to you all.

Insta-Wander the World: Louisville, Kentucky

April 29, 2015

andrew_cenci copy

I wasn’t planning to do another Insta-Wander feature for another few weeks, but then I was chatting to my Instagram friend Andrew (those are his photos above!) about his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and we thought it would be perfect timing to share these recommendations just before the Kentucky Derby this weekend! So I know it’s short notice, but pack your imaginary bags, because we’re all headed to Louisville today!

Andrew graciously agreed to share his favorite Louisville-based Instagram accounts with us all so that we can get a better sense of the city through the eyes of people who live there and love it. It makes me want to hop on a plane and walk these streets pronto.

fotofem

First up, Michelle Seivers, or @FotoFem. She’s a Louisville native and shares some of the most beautiful-yet-real photos of her city. I love the cityscapes, they’re really stunning. And American highways at sunrise? Sold.

jalinrose

Next up, Jalin Roze, an up and coming hip-hop artist whose feed is remarkably calming. A good mix of street art, architecture and dreads. You can find @jalinroze on YouTube as well.

forgotten-louiseville

I absolutely love that Andrew recommended @ForgottenLouisville. It’s like @Dublinghostsigns brother! A glimpse at the beautiful abandoned buildings of Louisville. They seem to have quite a drive-in whiskey culture which is equal parts perplexing and intriguing. sampsontheghost

Last but not least, @sampsontheghost, who captures the eery side of Louisville. He also runs the @igerslouisville account. So he’s kind of two for the price of one!

I have to admit that Louisville wouldn’t have really made my travel to-do list until Andrew suggested it, and I’m so glad that he did. Although now I can see that this Insta-wander series is really going to grow that to-do list pretty quickly!

In case you missed it, check out the first Insta-Wander series – Ireland!

A Day Trip through Croatian Wine Country

April 27, 2015

A day trip in Croatian wine country

Monday is a great day for photos of the beautiful Croatian wine country, I dare say. So get ready, here come a lot of them! It’s been just long enough now since our trip to Dubrovnik that I have loved working my way through these photos. Our day trip through the Pelješac peninsula just north of Dubrovnik to see where they make their delicious Dinga? red wine was a wonderful day trip from the city.

The driving was just wild enough to provide a little thrill, and at each turn was a more beautiful vista. But I was very glad that by the end of the day the thrilling drive hadn’t sent us free-falling directly into the beautiful vistas! It was touch and go there for a few hairpin turns!

croatia-oyster-fields

When we started our day trip, the weather looked more like this. It was cloudy and a little rainy as we made the 45-minute drive north from Dubrovnik along the coast. But we knew the forecast was for the rain to clear by mid-afternoon, so we figured we’d make the most of the cloudy portion by driving and enjoy the views by the time we got to the end of the peninsula. And it worked! Don’t you love when the forecast is right? That doesn’t always happen here in Ireland.

The Pelješac peninsula is known for two things: wine and shellfish, in the form of mussels and oysters. Oysters and mussels don’t really do it for us (texture! eeeh!), but we are pretty big fans of red wine. We had had some delicious Dinga? wine (pronounced ding-gatch, we think) in the Dubrovnik old town the night before we went, so we knew exactly what we were looking for!

ghost-town-croatia-2

The funny thing about this road trip is that it reminded us (for the umpteenth time that week) that so many things in Croatia are closed in April. We drove through Ston, and it felt like a ghost town. There were a locals working on their shops and cafes, but otherwise there were just cats and empty laneways. To be honest, it was creepy. We wanted to walk up the amazing old stone wall that crosses over the little mountain in the town, but it was closed for renovation (sense a theme?) so we high-tailed it back on down the peninsula.  ghost-town-croatia ghost-town-croatia-3

I did the driving on the way north and into the bulk of the peninsula, so we had fewer photos until we switched and I started demanding we pull over. When I was driving, I was so focused on the winding road that I forgot to pull us over!

quiet-bench-croatia-road-trip

We pulled over at this scenic little spot for a picnic lunch. I was so proud of myself for our random leftover lunch – roasted onions, sweet potatoes and kielbasa with spinach and Greek yogurt in a wrap. It sounds bizarre, but it was delicious. Although pretty much anything would have been delicious with that epic view. There was even a giant thunder and lightening storm happening way off in the distance!

lunch-stop-croatia-road-trip

croatia-oysters-and-mussels

Blue sky is wonderful, but grey skies bring the drama.

grapevines-croatia

Two beautiful photographs taken from the speeding car while Michael played Formula One on the Pelješac roads. They’re blurry because I was holding on for dear life with my other hand! On the left you can see the twisted branches of the grapevines. The whole peninsula was covered with them. Old vines, young vines, vines in front gardens, basically vines in any space bigger than two feet wide.

In the high season, as you drive along the peninsula you could stop at a hundred different wineries (there were hand painted signs all along the roads), but we also realized that if you had two grapevines outside your back door, you had a “winery”. Ha! I would have loved to have stopped at one of the little mom and pop wineries, but sadly the only one that we found open was one of the largest ones. It wasn’t so sad, of course, because we got to roam the very expansive, very dark (and very un-photogenic) wine cellars while it downpoured outside. No photos, but it was the Matusko winery and there was a Maserati parked outside. I think they do okay by Croatian wine standards!  winding-roads-croatia

After our winery visit we made a terrifying mistake. There’s a tunnel that goes through the mountain on the edge of the peninsula to where the really good wine grapes are grown on the edge of a cliff. We thought that tunnel would connect us to the main road and we were very wrong. Well, if we had been brave enough to drive along the narrow paved/pebbled road with no guard rails it might have eventually led to the main road. But instead we had to stop the car so we could switch drivers and Michael could turn it around while I stood on the side of the pebbles and closed my eyes and held my breath. Once we got turned around and back through the tunnel, our adventure was a happy experience again.

hate heights and being the passenger was worse because I had to be on the outside of the road, right along the cliffs. So few guardrails, Croatia. Can we work on that? So scary! croatia-coast-hotel

But it was all worth it. We made it to the southern end of the peninsula to a little town called Orebi? and burst through the clouds into the sunshine.  croatia-coast croatia-drinks-coast

We had a glass of wine and sat on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. It was bliss.

emily-croatia-adriatic-sea

Orebi? seems adorable, and both of us said we’d love to come back and take the ferry across to the island opposite the peninsula when the temperature was a little higher.

diving-adriatic-sea-croatia door-croatian-town view-croatia-coast

After spending a little time in the sunshine, collecting bits of pretty seaglass and gazing into the turquoise water, we realized we had better make tracks! We wanted to get off that peninsula and back to Dubrovnik before the sun set. The driving was wayyyyyy too precarious to do it in the dark. If we returned, we’d definitely stay a few nights because we were exhausted by the end of the long day of driving!       sunset-croatia

And thank goodness for Michael’s Formula One driving, because we made it back to Dubrovnik just as the sun was sinking below the islands. I made him pull over just one more time so I could snap another sunset photo without the blur. I swear, Croatian sunsets might just be the best going.

In case you missed it — our time in Dubrovnik was wonderful, too!

Happy Friday!

April 24, 2015

mini-friends-hugging

Happy Friday, friends! We had so much sun this week that today’s weak rain shower was almost a relief. Almost. Not quite. But we still managed a little outside time – our weekly Friday trip with my niece, my friend Naomi and her little one Elsie. The girls have learned how to hug and it melts your heart to see the little 18-month-olds giving each other a squeeze.

This weekend, Michael is coaching the Irish College Select Team (such an honor!) for a tournament in Dublin, so I’ll have the house to myself for a little more spring cleaning. I’m also looking forward to catching up with my parents who have been traveling around Arizona for the last week. Their photos looked amazing and I’m adding that part of America to my travel list.

Don’t forget, you can still enter to win a little sheep tea cosy (it’s something that keeps your teapot warm!) until Monday! And get ready for a few more giveaways next week!

This New York Times article about 1.5 million “missing” black men in the United States was sobering, especially its connection to Ferguson, where there are only 60 black men for every 100 black women.

This beautiful travel guide is making me want to visit the west coast Portland.

I made this rhubarb sour cream bundt cake for dinner guests tonight. If it tastes half as good as it smells, it’s going to be whopper!

These made-over alphabet magnets are a great idea for people (ahem, me) who cringe at primary colors.

I hope you have a lovely and relaxing weekend, wherever you are!

A Perfect Spring Day in St. Stephen’s Green

April 23, 2015

dublin-park-relaxing

For the last two weeks, it has been sunny in Dublin. Like real sunshine, the kind that lasts the whole day without a rain shower and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. Every spring we get this unexpected spate of nice weather days and everyone tip-toes around wondering what we did to deserve this glimpse of summer for so many days in a row, trying not to anger the weather gods and tempt the rain and wintry weather back.

I spent Tuesday afternoon at St. Stephen’s Green with friends, lounging on blankets, people watching and remarking at our good weather. I’m pretty sure I said “I just can’t believe this weather!” every five minutes. Sorry, guys! I’m easily distracted by glorious weather! dublin-green-grass-park park-lounging-dublin   spring-st-stephens-green-dublin

We lounged, along with everyone else in Dublin. Nearly everyone was horizontal, soaking in the Vitamin D that has been so elusive for the last five months.

stephens-green-dublin-spring blossoms-spring-dublin cherry-blossoms-dublin-2

Stephen’s Green has some great cherry blossoms in bloom at the moment. Go quick before they get rained away tomorrow!  spring-in-dublin-cherry-blossoms dublin-spring cherry-blossoms-dublin-spring dublin-spring-2 stephens-green-dublin-spring-2

Stephen’s Green is probably the best people-watching park in the city on a sunny day. I love this photo below. Those two older guys chatting against the tree, and can you spot the girl leaning against her man on the bench, head tipped to the sunshine? We also watched a guy spend two hours practicing bartender tricks with a (presumably empty?) liquor bottle and cups. It was mesmerizing and also looked exhausting. He was dedicated!  dublin-park-springtime dublin-park-spring tulips-st-stephens-green

Stephen’s Green also has incredible tall tulips at the moment, mixed in with petite primulas. Perfect spring combination, in my opinion!  tulips-dublin-spring

Today is the last day of this unexpected spring sunshine and the forecast for the next week looks “changeable” at best. I’ve nearly forgotten what that looks like!

Tea Cosy Giveaway!

April 22, 2015

tea-cosy-giveaway

I’ve been doing some serious spring cleaning this week and I happened upon a stash of awesome goodies from various events that I’ve been hoarding over the last year or so. As it turns out, I don’t need ten notebooks and an extra four bars of beautiful soap, so I thought I’d do a few giveaways!

First up, this sweet sheep tea cosy by designer Ursula Celano. Leave a comment on this post and tell me your favorite cosy beverage you love to sip (you won’t be penalized if it’s not tea!). I’ll choose a winner at random on Monday and have it out in the mail to you straight away! Teacup and saucer not included.

Good luck!

Notes and News from The Hive Conference

April 21, 2015

The Hive Conference Comes to Dublin

A week or so ago, I flew to Berlin for The Hive Conference for European bloggers. Wayyyyyy back in 2012, I attended the first one, but I wasn’t able to go for the last two years because of family commitments in Maine. But this year I was so excited to return – I write their monthly newsletter and helped research speakers, so I was really interested to see it all play out! I was also really excited to see my friends Anne and Ashley, whom I met at the very first Hive Conference. It’s so funny to think we didn’t know each other back then – and even funnier to think we had no idea how close we would become years later. Thank goodness for the internet!

First things first, there’s exciting news for Dublin bloggers that was announced in Berlin. The Hive is coming to Dublin next spring! We’re not sure the date or venue yet, but we should know in the next few months. As soon as the details have been finalized, I’ll keep you posted!

Next, I wanted to share a few things I learned at this conference. I’ve been blogging for six years, so sometimes blogging conferences can feel too geared toward beginners. But The Hive has a pretty good mix of talks for established and new bloggers, and I picked up a few shareable pieces of inspiration and information in Berlin that I really wanted to pass along to you. If you’re not a blogger, this may not be for you. You can go eat some chocolate and come back tomorrow!

1. The key to a great blogging conference: Be open, friendly, warm and welcoming

I left Berlin feeling refreshed – the people I met in person for the first time after knowing or following them online for ages, were nicer and more friendly in person than I even expected. If I’m being 1000% honest, I think I tend to be more reserved in person than I mean to be. I like to size up a situation before diving in head first. But after spending the weekend with such warm and open people reminded me that it’s absolutely okay to be gushingly friendly from the get go. There’s really nothing to lose.

2. Search Engine Optimization Tricks

It’s always good to be reminded that the nuts and bolts and behind the scenes of a blog are important. SEO usually feels like a different language, but somehow this workshop by SEO consultant Malte Landwehr made (almost) perfect sense! Here are a few practical ah-ha tricks:

  • The ‘Alt tags’ for images should be descriptions of the image and not identical for each image, they’re also what pop up when someone pins your image to Pinterest.
  • If you have old content on your blog that isn’t useful anymore, delete it. Ack, what a scary idea! But I see the point, if it’s just taking up space, there’s no point in it!
  • There’s perfect SEO and then there’s writing for the reader’s experience – and you should be creating a balance between the two. I loved this tidbit because it seems so hard to do SEO perfectly without sacrificing reader enjoyment. I like the idea of balance, although I think I could work harder on making everything more searchable and findable.

3. Sustainable fashion is about doing something, not everything

Jana, who writes the sustainable fashion blog Plique, gave the most thought-provoking and intellectual talk of the weekend. I usually find the idea of sustainable fashion intimidating, a mountain too big to even begin to scale. But Jana’s presentation was great encouragement that becoming more sustainably-focused in what we wear doesn’t have to be a quest for absolute perfection, but rather that doing something is better than doing nothing. Making a change is better than continuing to pretend that fast fashion is the only option.

Sidenote: I’ve referenced this article by Erin Boyle on growing a minimalist wardrobe about twenty times in the last week. Another great reminder of why higher quality pieces will stay in your wardrobe for much longer than mediocre pieces. It’s really worth a read.

4. On Online Hatred: “It’s better to be on this side.”

Natalie Holbrook, of the blog and book Hey Natalie Jean, gave the introductory keynote and spoke about online hate. While thankfully I’ve never had to deal with meanies harrassing me online, it’s something I’m seeing more and more of, especially on Instagram. It’s so easy to set up a fake or duplicate account just to harrass people.

She said that one of the things she reminds herself when people say hateful things to her on Twitter or Instagram or on her blog, is that it’s better to be on the receiving end than the dishing out end. It’s a far worse situation to be filled with hate than to be hated, which is a reminder that extends beyond the online world.

5. On Blog Longevity: “Make your blog reflective of your core journey and your readers will follow.”

Chelsea Fuss, of the blog Frolic, gave the closing keynote and spoke about why blogs are still relevant. Chelsea has been blogging for almost ten years, parlaying her blogging career into a career as a (famous!) prop stylist. But last year, she decided she needed to make a change, and that creating beautiful scenes for photos wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as living those beautiful (or sometimes not-so-beautiful) scenes. She sold everything she owned and headed off to Europe to live and work her way around the continent. She’s been blogging and freelancing, but more importantly living and exploring.

One line especially stuck with me. “Make your blog reflective of your core journey and your readers will follow.” Yes. And I hope so. Michael and I are planning some rather big changes in the next few months (I’ve alluded a few times, and I can’t wait to share more in the next few weeks) and this was a wonderful reminder that readers come here to share in the journey, whatever that journey may be.

If you’re considering attending next year when The Hive comes to Dublin, let me know. I’d love to chat more about it with you!