A Special Maine Bridal Shower

July 28, 2015

maine-bridal-shower I can count on one hand the number of bridal showers I’ve ever attended. Scratch that. I can count on one finger the number of bridal showers I’ve attended and that was my own. I hadn’t a clue what was supposed to happen at them when I had my own, and I had barely more of a clue when I teamed up with my friend (also named Emily) to throw my sister, Carolyn, a bridal shower this weekend.

There were no games, it wasn’t fussy, it was just a chance to get together with family and friends, chat, and celebrate the beautiful bride! Thanks to another friend of ours, she ended up with the floopiest bow bouquet to carry down the aisle at her rehearsal in less than three weeks, and we enjoyed the less than seasonal temperatures out on Emily’s deck, chatting and enjoying a little Maine lunch.  bridal-shower-carolyn We had peach-blood orange mimosas with straws that were more decorative than functional, as well as lots of quintessentially Maine food like my mom’s famous blueberry muffins (in mini form), and lobster rolls.  muffins-drinks-bridal-shower bridal-shower-decor-maine grandma-flower-arrangement My multi-talented grandmother (who happens to be 87 but doesn’t look or act a day over 70) made flower arrangements with blooms from her garden. grandma-bridal-shower flower-arrangement-bridal-shower carolyn-shower-details Carolyn and her fiance, Adam (whom we love like family already), are going to Paris on their honeymoon. So we ordered mini pastries from the European Bakery in Falmouth, some French and some not, and I made little flags with French words attached with washi tape (authentically from Japan from my friend Anne!), to kebab skewers. With a little ribbon they added a festive element!  treats-bridal-shower carolyn-bridal-shower-chats bow-bouquet-bridal-shower mom-and-carolyn-2 The bride and our gorgeous mom! cousins Goofy smiling cousins! And coincidentally the colors of the French flag!  carolyn-presents-4 For a special gift, I solicited “words of wisdom” from Carolyn’s friends and family to compile into a book. My dad made me two little sticks with holes drilled in so I could string a ribbon through. I was so pleased with how it turned out – and since I hold the original I get to take advantage of the advice as well!  bridal-shower-book-carolyn carolyn-modeling-apron My grandmother made me aprons for my own shower and I love using them. Carolyn got a few of her own and gave a silly fashion show. She makes goofy faces when I get my camera out but someday she will appreciate it!   carolyn-presents-3 The photo below is an Emily sandwich! Emily and I have been friends since college (she’s so warm and friendly that everyone called her “Friendly Emily” and they called me “Other Emily” and I didn’t even disagree with them!), and at my bridal shower seven years ago, she and Carolyn decided to become roommates in the same building I used to live in! When Emily and her husband had their first apartment together, they introduced Carolyn to their neighbor across the hall, who turned out to be Adam! Carolyn’s fiance! I love that story. carolyn-and-emily-x2 patio-bridal-shower The perfect celebration for a beautiful bride. I’m so excited to finally be around for all of the wedding excitement! And have I mentioned it’s the first time I’ll get to be in a wedding and I’m the maid of honor (technically matron, but no one likes to be a matron)! Just a few more weeks!

Travelogue / Boulder

July 27, 2015


As promised, another little travelogue, this time about an afternoon spent in Boulder a few weeks agoexploring their promenade and giant farmer’s market. I wish we’d had more time in Boulder, but it makes such a nice day trip from Denver. The drive isn’t too far or taxing, and you get just that little bit closer to the mountains.

(In case you missed it, last week’s post followed me through an adventure in Denver and its suburbs!)

Michael and his brothers spent the weekend together in Las Vegas (along with 11,000 other Irish people) watching Conor McGregor fight – and win! Michael trains at the same gym as Conor, so he’s a pretty big fan of his, and the rest of the boys were along for the ride. Long story short, the Westbrooks girls didn’t want to be left out of the fun, so we planned a few girls weekend adventures. Michael’s sister, Leah, flew in from Houston, and our gracious hostess Summer took us to Boulder for lunch and a little wandering around. We were missing Angie, but she caught up with us the next day back at the pool.

We started with a wander down Boulder’s pedestrian promenade, Pearl Street, which is full of buskers and street performers. There seemed to be a fire theme – there was this guy throwing fire sticks, and the guy after him was lighting things up as well!  street-performer-boulder-colorado boulder-mountains Boulder is nestled right at the edge of a mountain, and it has a really relaxed hippy-student vibe about it.  boulder-street-performer the-med-boulder-restaurant After some great people watching, we stopped at The Med for tapas and wine, which has a giant patio covered (thankfully!) with umbrellas. We sat in the shade and chatted over patatas bravas and the most delicious bacon-wrapped dates.

Fully fueled, we made our way to the Boulder farmer’s market, which is huge!  crowds-boulder-market sisters-farmers-market sisters-boulder-farmers-market My sister-in-laws (sisters-in-law?) are babes. And one is just a tad taller than the other!  beets-boulder-market boulder-county-farmers-market boulder-farmers-market The produce was so bountiful we couldn’t help but pick up all the fixings for a salad later. We chose some golden beets which are one of my new favourite vegetables. So sweet! lettuce-boulder-farmers-market onions-boulder-market southwestern-pasta-boulder We also picked up a bunch of this Southwestern artisan pasta that really tasted Southwestern! I ended up making it into the most bizarre but delicious pasta salad with black beans, corn and leftover salsa for dressing.  lounging-boulder-market Overall, a lovely day spent enjoying a really relaxed town. If you’re headed to Boulder, just make sure you hit the Saturday farmer’s market well before 2pm when it closes for the day!


Happy Friday!

July 24, 2015


Happy Friday from Maine! How was your week? Mine was exceptionally busy, and didn’t really feel like vacation at all. Most of the week was spent glued to the computer, working on freelance pieces, editing photos, and organising my sister’s bridal shower which I’m throwing with a friend tomorrow morning. I’m trying to get ahead with freelance projects so that I can enjoy the time before my sister’s wedding, which is only three weeks from now!

The good news, though, is that even though I’ve been stuck at my computer, I’ve been feeling my creativity return. For a few months now, mostly because trying to buy a house in Ireland sucked up every extra bit of energy I had, I haven’t felt able to think creatively at all. But this week, I’ve been thinking of new blog topics, different freelance articles I want to write, and projects I’m excited to undertake. Thank goodness!

This weekend will be full with wedding events and projects, and an opening at the local library next door to my parents’ house. I’ve been going there since they moved to this house when I was one, so I’ll be so glad to be there as they open a new reading room!

While I’m playing maid of honor, here are a few links I enjoyed – and that sparked my creativity this week!

In praise of public schools and choosing the best option for your kid.

A bright and cheery office makeover.

This hexagon mirror would be perfect in a bathroom.

Tips for organising your social media calendar (I was clueless about half of these!).

Yum! Curried corn and coconut rice.

Fab DIY printed curtain panels. I can’t wait to get my DIY on again when we actually have a home again!

The image above is from an impromptu walk through the new Portland Patisserie. Looking forward to going back to try their treats!

Happy weekend, everyone. I hope it’s restful and relaxing!

An Evening Canoe

July 23, 2015

em-canoeing-maine My dad and I took the canoe out on China Lake this evening, which we haven’t done together in years. It was lovely and calm and the perfect way to get some fresh air after a day of working at our computers. We even caught a family of loons with a fluffy little baby!

Thanks, Dad, for doing the bulk of the paddling while I was playing with my camera in the amazing sunset light. canoeing-china-village canoe-china-lake-maine canoeing-china-village-maine-3 canoeing-china-lake-maine-2 china-lake-maine-2 old-boathouse-china-lake cabin-china-lake-maine loons-china-lake-maine lilly-pads-china-lake lily-pads-china-lake-2 emily-paddling-canoe-china-lake llbean-canoe-maine waves-china-village-maine dad-china-lake-2015 sunset-china-lake-maine emily-canoeing-china-lake-maine canoe-on-volvo I’m having such a nice, quiet time at home in Maine with my parents while Michael is sweating it out in Houston. It hasn’t been terribly hot, which is kind of a relief, but I’m hoping for some good waterskiing weather soon!

Travelogue / Denver, Colorado

July 22, 2015

16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado Last week, Michael and I took a trip out to Colorado to visit his family. That sounds a little nutty, especially if you know that when we’re in Dublin we live around the corner from Michael’s parents and his brother and his family, but when you’re the oldest of five kids, that leaves a bunch more kids for visiting! The rest of Michael’s siblings are spread around the United States in Denver, Chicago and Houston, so we made a point this summer to all meet in Denver for a little family reunion. It was the first time we were all in one place since last summer and who knows when our paths will all cross at once again. So, a Westy Colorado reunion!

We spent the bulk of the week in the suburbs of Denver, enjoying the local pool and hanging around with family, but we also spent an afternoon exploring downtown Denver, a whirlwind twenty-four hours in Colorado Springs, and a day in Boulder. I tried to squeeze it all into one post, but that got pretty unwieldy pretty quickly, so I’m going to break it into Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder separately. And today, Denver!

Our afternoon in downtown Denver was such fun, but it was very short. Coffee, wandering the streets, hopping on the free city bus in a downpour, and trying out the light rail. But since it was a short exploration trip, I thought I’d give you a little bonus of random family snaps from our time in the ‘burbs. I’m trying to get better at taking more photos, both with my big camera and with my phone, of just real life. I managed pretty well this week, but if my iPhone tells me one more time that it has no more storage space, it’s getting traded in for a newer model!

So without further ado, here’s a quick glimpse of Denver!  Architecture, Denver, Colorado We mostly walked around the 16th Street Mall area and down toward the Performing Arts district. I can’t wait to go back, hopefully in the spring, for a more thorough look.

I was so struck by the architecture in downtown Denver. Giant skyscrapers right next to smaller, more intricate buildings and then a little street art for good measure. 16th Street Mall, Denver, Colorado The 16th Street Mall is pedestrian except for a public free bus that rolls up and down all day long. We had to hop on when it started to rain at the end of our adventure and it seems they come really frequently. Like if you miss one, you can see the next one down the block!  Denver architecture

Travelogue, Denver, Colorado The Williams tower with its grand tower at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe made for a nice backdrop as we strolled. When it was completed in 1910 it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi and it was part of a grand shopping department store called Daniels and Fisher. The shopping center is long gone, but the tower remains, overlooking 16th Street in both directions. william-cooke-daniels-building-denver denver-performing-arts-district hotel-teatro-bicycles Michael does such a great job researching spots he knows I’ll enjoy for our adventures. He spent probably half an hour online and he had created a little afternoon itinerary for us. One stop was the Hotel Teatro, a boutique hotel in the Performing Arts district that has a cool lounge and restaurant. We were hoping to stop for a coffee, but it was closed for a private event. Loved their blue branded bicycles and those polka dots on the restaurant window!  nickel-restaurant-hotel-teatro the-kitchen-restaurant-denver Just around the corner, we had a peek into The Kitchen, which looks incredible inside and out. The patio is flanked by giant window boxes filled with strawberry plants and rainbow chard. Edible flower boxes! And the inside had these incredible chandeliers with glass baubles.  the-kitchen-denver-colorado little-owl-coffee-denver-2 Finally, we stopped for a coffee at Little Owl Coffee in this really cool building called the Sugarcube on Blake Street. Such an incredibly modern building that houses office space and luxury condos. In the lobby, it has quarterly art exhibits and in the corner of one side is this sleek little coffee shop hidden by bright green shrubs.  little-owl-coffee-denver These photos don’t quite do it justice, but The Little Owl is so slick. The whole back wall is marble and counters are giant slabs of wood. On the wall behind the coffee counter, the glasses sort of twinkle in the light. And the coffee was excellent. Just what we’re used to in Dublin. little-owl-coffee-sugarcube-denver clyfford-still-museum-denver I snapped this wall as a reminder to make sure to visit the Clyfford Still museum next time we’re in town! Clyfford Still was an abstract expressionist, from the era of de Kooning and Rothko and Pollock, and 95% of his works are based in the museum in Denver. I love that last line – And the art world was his enemy. So sassy!

And now, for the family portion of Denver! Sorry, fam, I usually give you a little more warning before I put you on the blog, but you’re all babes so you’ll have to get over it!  burb-life When we last saw baby Julius, he was only three months old, but already so chatty and squishy. He’s even more chatty and squishy a year later. Such chunky arms! After church on Sunday, my sister-in-law Summer made us mimosas and brunch! She’s a super star for putting up with so many of us taking over her house for the week!  julius-curling-iron Julius was obsessed with my sister-in-law Leah’s curling iron. He carried it around everywhere, trailing the cord behind it and telling it stories. Kid is a hoot.  julius-pool-denver-2 We got some pool time with the squishy man! The boys all went to the Conor McGregor fight in Vegas before meeting us in Denver, so Julius is rocking the McGregor-esque man bun. It cracked everyone up so it stuck around for a few days.  julius-pool-denver He found a pretty comfortable seat resting on my legs in the water and playing with my toes, and then conked out in my lap for an afternoon nap. At which point, Michael told my mother-in-law, “She’s in her happy place.” Why yes, put a sleeping baby in my lap and let me read my dad’s latest book for an hour, I’m a happy camper!

And then, we had a family photo shoot! Wrangling thirteen people is not the easiest, but I happen to think the outtakes are hilarious.  biggest-bros This is my oldest nephew, Jalen. He’s the loveliest little 8-year-old you ever did meet. comfortable-shoes Julius and Jalen’s dad Aaron, the middle kid in Michael’s family.  westy-mamas And the moms who produced my gorgeous baby niece and two nephews! Thanks, girls, for making me an aunt!  DSC_1086-edited-large

blond-baby-eabha And, trying to get thirteen Westbrooks to pay attention at once! Check out party-time Eabha on the end there.  caught-unawares westy-family-photo-2015-3 And we did it! Everyone over the age of two looking this direction! Wahoo!  bubs-chilling And we’ll close it out with baby Julius waiting for everyone to join him for dinner!

Thanks for indulging our little Denver adventure. It was partly a research trip for me as I’m choosing which city the Delightful guidebook series will take on next. Denver is definitely on the list, so I’m already planning a return trip in the spring!

Song Covers as Gaeilge with Colaiste Lurgan

July 20, 2015

If you’re Irish, you’ve probably seen Colaiste Lurgan‘s music videos before. But if you’re not, the title of this post might have you stumped! But trust me, I think this is going to perk up your Monday! Colaiste (pronounced colash-ta) Lurgan is an intensive Irish language school for high school kids in Galway that’s known around the country for its incredibly well-produced music videos. The kids translate popular songs into Irish, then perform them, with Irish dancing and instrumental interludes throughout. I got such a kick out of binge watching the videos and it looks like such an awesome learning experience for the students to work on them.

In Ireland, you take Irish like we in America would take English classes, you have it every day as one of your main subjects. And in order to get a high school diploma in Ireland, you need to pass your Irish exam at the very end. A lot of kids in high school get sent to the gaeltacht areas, or the all-Irish-speaking neighborhoods around the country, for “Irish camp” so they can polish their Irish skills. Colaiste Lurgan is one of those schools, and probably the one with the biggest reputation – at least on YouTube! They even have their own channel!

These kids are so talented and it’s fun to hum along even if you don’t know the words as Gaeilge! 

I played these for my 8-year-old nephew Jalen last week becuase he listens to that “Cheerleader” song as many times as he can get adults to play it for him! He was skeptical that his dad ever had to learn that language and I’m not sure he quite understood the festival-beach theme, but it was fun to show him nonetheless. I think if Colaiste Lurgan did Silento’s Whip and Nae Nae, he might be impressed, although I don’t think any of those words would translate!

Happy Friday!

July 17, 2015


Happy Friday from Colorado, everyone! Michael and I have been visiting with his family in Denver and Colorado Springs for the last week. We’re heading back to the airport tonight to fly east, so we’re spending the rest of the day soaking up the dry Colorado sunshine before we land in the humidity. I have lots to share from our adventures so far, and hopefully next week I’ll have a little more time to catch up.

With all the hubbub trying to buy a house before we left Dublin for the summer (which is still inching its way along in our absence!), I also have a ton of posts to catch up on from adventures over the last month or so as well. Lots of fun to be had here on FCV, if only I can sit down at my computer long enough to load ’em all up!

While I catch the red-eye to Boston, here are a few fun things to peruse.

Lessons from working as a tour guide on a former plantation. Oy.

Tips for short and long term wine storage.

Five ways to instantly improve your site’s SEO.

A self-drive safari through Tanzania sounds incredibly adventurous.

This watch is so sleek and pretty.

More gorgeous wallpaper options than you’ll ever need.

Happy weekending, everyone!

Styled in Ireland / What to Wear to the Farmer’s Market

July 15, 2015

What to wear to a Dublin Farmer's Market Welcome to another Styled in Ireland post! This one might be my favorite yet. My friend Naomi and I headed into town one Saturday for a visit to the farmer’s market in Meetinghouse Square in Temple Bar. It had been a long time since either of us had been, so we stopped for our usual lunch, picked up some amazing bok choi and beets, and a bunch of lavender flowers. market-bag-georgian-door-small

dublin-market-bag-5-small For our market visit, I brought along this new tote from 31 Chapel Lane, one of my absolute favorite Irish companies. Joi and Damien produce beautiful Irish napkins, table cloths, towels and cushions. They’ve just teamed up with Apolis to bring their jute and leather market tote to Dublin. I’ve been seeing Apolis totes, all with different city names emblazoned tastefully on the side, popping up all over the place so it was really fun to see Dublin, Ireland, on one!

The Apolis totes are made in Bangladesh by a women’s co-operative and then finished in California. It’s a wonderful, worthy cause that employs and empowers women half a world away, and Joi and Damien have such hearts for helping those less fortunate. And toting one around is a great way for me to help as well.  what-to-wear-farmers-market-dublin market-bag-x2-small The tote is deceptively large. In fact, it looks a little heavy in these photos because in addition to my market finds, it’s holding a suede jacket (which I shockingly didn’t need), my camera and extra lens, and my wallet. Good thing it’s so roomy or I would have been lugging those things around haphazardly all day! It’s also really sturdy and will likely last me for years and years.

I have to admit, I’d rarely wear bare arms in Ireland, but it was particularly balmy so I stuffed my suede jacket into the bag and walked around in my sundress and sandals. It felt like real summer even though it was pretty cloudy! My dress is very old from Gap, and those sandals are new from Clarks. They’re so comfortable for walking around cobblestoned streets. Fun story, I actually wore that dress to my high school graduation and I just can’t bear to part with it! My necklace was a $7 Target find a few years ago and it gets so many compliments. Love those finds! market-people-small what-to-wear-farmers-market-dublin I’m not sure if it was because Naomi was standing five feet away snapping photos, but I was getting a lot of looks. I think there was some serious bag envy going on!

We love the little cheese selection boxes from the cheese stand. For only €5 you get five small hunks of different cheeses. There’s also a stall where you can eat oysters and drink wine, which is usually pretty appealing.  cheese-stall-dublin-market-small dublin-cheese-stall-small dublin-market-olives-small dublin-cheese-stall-3-small dublin-farmers-market-flowers-small dublin-farmers-market-small Whenever we go to the farmer’s market in Meetinghouse Square, we pick up roasted vegetable quiche. I think quiche is a loose term, it’s mostly just a stack of delicious roasted vegetables barely held together with a little egg in a pastry crust. Eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, onions, olives, carrots and broccoli. It’s delicious.  dublin-market-bag-4-small dublin-market-flowers-2-small market-bag-10-small We picked up beets which I roasted that night for dinner. I’m always a little nervous about beets because they stain so easily, but I washed them and chopped the greens off, then wrapped them in tin foil and put them in the oven at 400 degrees for about a half hour. Then the skins just slid right off with a little help from a knife. They were so sweet.  31-chapel-lane-market-bag-small 31-chapel-lane-dublin-market-bag-small

dublin-market-bag-2-small And that’s exactly how pumped I was for an afternoon at the farmer’s market!

In case you missed them, you can check out past Styled in Ireland posts for lots of outfit inspiration!

Sandals: Clarks  / Dress: Gap / Tank: H&M / Necklace: Target / Watch: Jord Watches / Glasses: Oakley / Tote: 31 Chapel Lane / Photography: Naomi Phillips / Market: Meetinghouse Square in Temple Bar, every Saturday, rain or shine!

Dublin’s Hanging Flowers / O’Neill’s Pub and Guest Rooms

July 13, 2015

hanging-flowers-dublin Hello, everyone! Happy Monday! I’ve got just the thing that’s going to brighten your day. Giant, blossoming, overflowing hanging flowers in Dublin! It’s one of my favorite times of year in the city, when the hanging baskets start spilling out over window sills and doorways.  o'neills-townhouse-dublin dublin-pub-hanging-flowers I don’t know what most of the flower varieties are, but petunias play a leading role in most hanging baskets, and they’re most commonly found hanging from pub windows. Of course, that makes it all the more baffling how they manage to be so prolific – it’s not like the bartenders are out daed-heading blossoms as they go by! But yet they always seem to be thriving.  dublin-pub-flowers They’ll last well into the autumn, making the streets of Dublin so cheerful. I took these photos of the incredible flowers hanging from O’Neill’s Pub and Guest Rooms on Pearse Street just before I left for Maine. Aren’t they incredible? The antique globe lanterns are pretty great, too! dublin-pub-flowers-2 dublin-pub-flowers-3 hanging-flowers-pubs-dublin hanging-flowers-ireland flowers-dublin-ireland o'neills-pub-dublin o'neills-pub-dublin-2 oneills-pub-dublin This is one of my favorite details you might see while you’re walking around Dublin. See that little pillow in the photo above? I’m not sure the technical term for it, but when the trucks come to deliver kegs to the pubs, they’ll drop the kegs off the truck and let them land on that pillow before rolling them to a bulkhead to store them in the basement under the pub. If you see a truck unloading kegs (especially Guinness), look for the pillow!

Tricks for Family Photos with Toddlers

July 8, 2015

eabha-running Toddlers are funny little creatures, aren’t they? So much personality, so many opinions, and so few words to express them. Add a camera and the majority of them run the other direction as fast as their little feet will carry them. Those tiny little people can make family photo shoots a little tricky. I have two tricks for family photos with toddlers that I’d like to pass on in case you have a little gremlin of your own about to head out on a family photo shoot.

First, you can’t make them do what you want. They do not take direction under the age of three, and I’m skeptical if it improves much after that! Instead, you be ready and trust your photographer to capture the moments when you all happen to be looking the right way and smiling. Or at least close to it.  phillips-under-tree Second, and this is a reflection of my personal theory of family photography, but the natural, organic moments are the moments that come through the most beautifully on camera. Eabha cleaning every speck of dirt off her teddy, or Elsie needing a little snuggle from her dad. Those moments, un-coached and un-cajoled, are so real and reflective of their phases of toddlerhood.


cosy-andy-03 westbrooks-family-shoes If we set out on a family photo shoot, we’d likely do a lot of walking back and forth, taking the lead from the little toddler at the heart of the family. Whether they want to be picked up or put down (or some combination of both for hours on end!) my goal as a photographer is to catch those little moments in between.

So plaster that smile on your face and wait for your little one to get on board. It’ll be worth those sore face muscles in the end!