Belfast Exploring / Lunch at the National

Irish restaurant The National in Belfast

I’ve been so impressed by the design I’ve stumbled across in Ireland lately. A year or so ago I was lamenting that every cafe felt a little bit the same – the same industrial style that wasn’t too adventurous or full of individual personality. But in the last few months, I’ve stumbled across some really fun and inspiring design, still mainly industrial, but with more intricate patterns and more cheerful colors.

Michael and I had lunch in Belfast a few weeks ago on a little afternoon excursion. He needed to have his phone fixed and the only Apple store on our entire little island is in Belfast. Isn’t it bonkers that there isn’t one in Dublin? There must be a very good reason, because I think they’d do very good business. But the trip to Belfast was an excuse to spend a few hours together in the car and try out a new spot for lunch.

While Michael waited at the Apple store, I went to grab us coffees at Established Coffee around the corner. On my way back, I spotted the National, a cafe/bar in the grand old National Bank building. Their menu had some healthy options, so we headed there after the epic phone wait.

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Yellow beams, patterned counter tile, and big hanging plants.  The National Restaurant in Belfast, Ireland Lunch at the National Restaurant Belfast, Ireland

But I think my favorite detail might be the gold lined conical pendant lights.  Gorgeous counter at the National Restaurant, Belfast, Ireland

Tied, of course, the badger crawling through the ceiling! Ha! I should have asked the significance of the badger, I’ve been wondering for a few weeks now. Ceiling badger at the National Restaurant in Belfast, Ireland

Michael and I both enjoyed our lunches – we each ordered soup and salad. I had a roasted egg plant and goat cheese salad and tomato basil soup, and Michael had a Moroccan chickpea tagine type salad and hearty butternut squash soup. All delish!

The National / High Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Recent Baby Photography / Tiny in Tulle

Dublin baby photography Emily Westbrooks

I’ve been snapping a few more baby photographs lately, for friends, family and a few clients. Over the weekend, I got to take photos of our little neighbor girls. Baby Tillie Ann was so curious about her little tulle skirt. Ten year old Kasey was a much easier model, and so sweet with her little sister.

baby photography emily Westbrooks

Tillie didn’t make it so easy to take photographs over her gorgeous little face because she was busy trying to take big bites of pink tulle.

baby photography emily westbrooks

But pink baby skin and pink tulle are are a beautiful and ethereal combination.  baby photography ireland emily westbrooks

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Are they not just the cutest sisters?

You can see more about my baby photography here.

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Friday Finds

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Happy, happy Friday! How are ya? This week absolutely flew by. But it was a productive one. I got two days minding my gorgeous little niece while her usual sitter (welcome back, Grandma Lolo!) was away, crossed some BIG things off my to-do list, and cleared a little more room in my life for a few big changes in the months to come. I spent some time helping my little sister plan her wedding (only 5 months away!) and worked on my chin-ups at the gym. I’m bound and determined to get strong enough to do them on my own!

Did you have a nice week? What are you up to this weekend? We have brunch plans, one last home basketball match of the season, and hopefully a little more time outside in the sunshine!

I found a bunch of interesting tidbits online this week. I hope you enjoy!

Please watch this video of an artist creating alongside her toddler. It’s a hoot (and her art is beautiful).

Living stylishly and minimally in 340 square feet.

The lost art of free time – and how to recover it. “Not only can scheduled rest renew your joy in life, but also, make you more creative.”

Springy desktop downloads – so hard to choose! I have blue florals on my screen as we speak!

I’m strongly considering a capsule wardrobe for the summer. Erin wrote a little about her experience“Less has been freeing for me, in a lot of ways. Mostly it’s kept me from spending precious time on the meaningless: shopping, amassing, stuffing.” 

How the kids’ menu is ruining children’s diets.

What ISIS really wants. And what it wants is terrifying. “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.” Ugh.

And how to get 100,000 Pinterest followers, if that’s your thing.

Have a happy weekend!

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Delightful Design / Blas Cafe at the Chocolate Factory

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When Michael was on school break last week, we took a little field trip to the Blas Cafe in the Chocolate Factory. I had been meaning to check it out – it’s always great to hear about a new northside spot!  chocolate_factory_cafe_dublin

I was a big fan of their giant tall ceilings and mix of natural, grey and turquoise-y green chairs. And Michael and I decided that someday we will have hanging lights that twinkle like these (mostly I decided, let’s be honest). They were a little daintier than typical industrial lights so they seemed more glittery than bare.

It’s also just nice to have more space to move around in a cafe. Most Dublin cafes are quite small, so the Blas Cafe felt enormous!  chocolate_factory_dublin_blas_cafe

We only ordered coffee and they were having a problem with their machine so it took forever on the day we were there. When the coffee finally materialized it was yummy, so we’ll be back to give it another shot soon.

Blas Cafe / 26 King’s Inns Street, Dublin 1

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How Dublin Bikes Took Over the City

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This infographic on Dublin Bikes, our city’s public bike system, arrived in my inbox last week and I thought it would be fun to share with you. I get a lot of infographics in my inbox but I usually delete them because they are cheesy and confirm every stereotype about Ireland that I work so hard to change! But this one was interesting, especially becuase it arrived in my inbox about ten minutes after I made one of those thirteen minute journeys on one of our fifteen hundred Dublin Bikes!

I have to admit, I had a Dublin Bikes card for two years before I got up the guts to use it! Two years! That means I renewed it after not having used it for a whole year! Luckily Dublin Bikes cards are so cheap when you subscribe annually – just €20! And I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of them in the last few years. Sometimes it’s the fastest way to get from A to B, but sometimes it’s just the most fun. I’ve pulled over so many times to take a photo that I wouldn’t have been able to snap if I was on the train or a bus. That said, I’ve also cursed Irish weather on those bikes – there was a stretch when I swear it was only raining on me as I cycled across the city!

Here are a few tips from a regular Dublin Bikes user:

  • Obey the traffic signs and lights
  • Watch out for pot holes, they can be lethal on Dublin streets!
  • Cars often run red lights, so don’t go without making sure all the cars have stopped
  • Don’t wear earphones while you’re cycling, it’s my biggest pet peeve – so dangerous!

You can see the full infographic with lots more Dublin Bikes info right here.

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All Over the World with Conde Nast Traveler

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about places all over the world for Conde Nast Traveler. I thought I’d send you on a little journey through those articles today!

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10 Best Free Things to Do in Dublin – I love directing people to the free things to do in Dublin, like stroll through the many beautiful parks, or visit the Chester Beatty Library. These are ten of the best things to do in Dublin that won’t cost you a cent!

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The Restaurant Guide to Portland, Maine – I had such a fun time writing about my home state, especially because there are so many great places to eat. The image above is from Slab, where food writer and photographer Ted Axelrod describes the Sicilian pizza as a pizza pillow and he couldn’t be more right. Special thanks to Ted for snapping the photos for this story!

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The Best Cities for Chocolate Lovers – This was one of the harder stories to write simply because I wanted to be munching on chocolate continuously, chomping with every word! This girl with a sweet tooth has her eye on Brussels soon!

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Scenic Day Trips from Dublin – I can’t wait for the weather to warm up just enough to go out for a few day trips. We tried to brave Howth pier for a walk this weekend and it was just too cold and windy. Time for spring!

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5 Dublin Cafes for Tea Drinkers

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I must admit I rarely drink tea, despite living in a country that takes tea very seriously and despite growing up with a dad who drinks tea all day long. I love to drink tea when an Irish person makes it for me in their kitchen and it always tastes delicious, but when I make it in my house or order it in a cafe and it just isn’t the same and I can’t get through more than a few sips. I also like to drink one very specific kind of vanilla tea some afternoons when I think I shouldn’t have more caffeine. I always end up jittery, looking down at my shaking hands and remembering how much caffeine tea actually has!

But I’ve realized I’ve been neglecting the tea drinkers out there by talking about coffee so much (here, here, and here), and of all the places in the world to drink tea, Dublin is a pretty good one. So, I’ve compiled a list (with the help of a few tea-drinking friends) of lovely little spots to drink tea in the city.

First, I should mention that there are very few places you can’t get a cup of tea in Ireland. You can get regular tea in restaurants, cafes, hotels, even pubs at any hour of the day. And Irish people do order normal tea all day long, and they drink it with milk and sometimes sugar. When you see sugar packets on restaurant tables, typically brown sugar is for coffee and white sugar is for tea. Second, you should know that if ever you encounter a problem in Ireland, tea will likely fix it. It’s just the law of the land!

All that said, these are five spots in Dublin to find a special tea experience or fun, exotic teas. And all of the spots I’ve mentioned that are cosy cafes for coffee will serve you tea as well! Now, on with the show!

Bewley’s

Open since 1927, Bewley’s Cafe in the middle of busy Grafton Street is where James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh and Samuel Beckett chatted and worked over cups of tea. The Bewley family has been importing tea into Ireland since 1835, and they now produce tea and coffee for a ton of restaurants and hotels around the country. The cafe on Grafton Street has incredible Harry Clarke stained glass windows at the very back

Wall & Keogh

Wall & Keogh is filled with big jars of their own tea mixes – even their chai tea is their own blend. Wall & Keogh supply a lot of the other cafes in town, so you’ll see their name on tea all over Dublin. The cafe on Camden Street also does brunch all day, and if that isn’t something to smile about, I don’t know what is!

Clement & Pekoe

I’m realizing that Clement & Pekoe makes all my lists! The little cafe on South William Street is great for coffee, people watching, hot chocolate and now tea! They serve their tea with little individual strainers in each mug. You take the lid off the strainer and set the strainer in it when it’s strong enough for you. They also sell so many kinds of bulk tea in lovely black tins that would make such a nice souvenir for a tea fan!

Sister Sadie

I was in Sister Sadie right at the beginning of our clean and lean eating plan, so I skipped my usual coffee and opted for their “Sassy Sadie” tea blend. I usually make a face at fruity tea, but this was just the right blend of sass in my tea. I was calling it Zany Sadie until I double checked with them, but Sassy Sadie is probably a safer bet! Imagine what Zany Sadie might taste like?!

Nelly’s

Nelly’s is a tiny cafe just up the block from Sister Sadie in Portobello, a slightly quieter option with a few little tables on the front stoop. I like Nelly’s because it feels like you’re having tea in your cool Irish older sister’s kitchen. They also have a pantry section where you can pick up teas and wholesome ingredients to bring back to your own kitchen!

Are you planning a visit to Dublin? These are great spots to try, whether you drink tea or not! If you’re looking for a place to stay, try Hotel Direct to find deals for hotels in Dublin.

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True Quests Aren’t Measured in Time or Distance

true quests aren't measured in time or distance

My mom recommended a book when I was home in Maine at Christmas time, which she rarely does although she and my dad both read voraciously. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walters, was an easy, mostly happy read, and I liked this particular passage about hope so much that I took a photo of it with my phone so I could keep it for a while.

But aren’t all great quests folly? El Dorado and the Fountain of Youth and the search for intelligent life in the cosmos – we know what’s out there. It’s what isn’t that truly compels us. Technology may have shrunk the epic journey to a couple short car rides and regional jet lags – four states and twelve hundred miles traversed in an afternoon – but true quests aren’t measured in time or distance anyway, so much as in hope. There are only two good outcomes for a quest like this, the hope of the serendipitous savant – sail for Asia and stumble on America – and the hope of scarecrows and tin men: that you find out you had the thing you sought all along.

The hope of scarecrows and tin men, he might be on to something.

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How to Make Irish Hot Whiskey to Cure the Sniffles

how_to_make_hot_whiskey_title We’ve got a few sniffles in our house at the moment. Nothing severe, but Michael woke up with a bit of a cold. I hate to even call it a cold, since that could encourage them (the cold and the husband), but needless to say it was time to break out my signature hot Irish whiskey recipe.  irish_hot_whiskey

Michael and I met our senior year in college. Well, I like to call it our second senior years. We had both taken time off during our junior years (for very different reasons – I was working for a presidential campaign and Michael was encouraged to take a bit of a break), and we found ourselves meeting for the first time (or third, depending who you ask) when we returned.

Long story short, we spent our second senior years together, me wooing him with ham sandwiches and him wooing me with his Irish phrases that I later realized meant teacher, can I go to the bathroom? During that first winter together in Maine, Michael came down with a few colds and I tried my best to impress him with my Irish hot whiskey skills. I’ve honed this recipe over the years, and every time Michael comes down with a cold he asks for a hot whiskey. Magically, it always seems to perk him up a little!  how_to_make_irish_hot_whiskey

Irish whiskey is such a simple drink to make and takes about two minutes to whip up. Here’s what you need: honey, lemons, cloves (they’re optional), whiskey and water. It’s this simple. Put a slice of lemon, a teaspoon of honey, and a few cloves in a mug. Add a shot of whiskey. Mush that all together with a spoon and make sure the honey has dissolved. Finally, add 1/4 cup of just-boiled water and stir to combine.  kilbeggan_irish_whiskey

You can add a little more water or a little more honey if it’s too strong or too tart.  hot_whiskey_ireland

Do you have colds creeping into your house yet? I’ve managed to escape so far, but we’ve got another few months of cold season to go!

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Bright Dublin Coffee Shop / Two Fifty Square

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I met a new friend for coffee in Two Fifty Square last week, and since I had my camera with me I thought I’d snap a few photos to share the airy cafe with you. Between the tall ceilings, skylights and white subway tile, it’s a bright spot even on a grey day.  dublin_coffee_roaster_250_square

This was my first visit to Two Fifty Square since Rathmines is just about the opposite end of the world from where we live. But I was in the neighborhood and I’m so glad I stopped in. The owner (I think?) suggested a long black with cold soy milk and it was the most delicious non-milky coffee I’ve ever had. They roast their own coffee in the back, just through that door in the back. I still have no idea what a long black is, but it was delish. When did coffee get so complicated?  250_square_coffee_dublin Oh! Lest I forget, I also had a big bowl of light-but-flavorful butternut squash and chipotle soup. Also delicious.

250 Square / Williams Park, Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6

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