A Patio (Barely) DIY and a Few Spilled Beans

October 7, 2015

diy-patio-set-seats Welcome back from the longest blogging break I’ve ever accidentally taken! Whoops!

After months of strictly enforced vagueness about our plans and what’s going on behind the blog, today I’m ready to spill some of it.

If you were here with me, we’d have a seat on our new little patio set that I’ve just spruced with some new cushion fabric, and I’d set about explaining. I’d explain that we’re in Texas (although you’d likely already know that because we’d be sweating), and I’d explain that we’ll be here for a while. We’re not sure how long, but we’ll be here long enough that this little patio set is sitting outside our apartment. Our Houston apartment.

And the reason we don’t know how long we’ll be here is that we’re hoping and praying and planning to adopt a baby. diy-patio-set In person, when I spill those particular beans, I somewhat sheepishly rush through that big, fat sentence at the end. I think because it’s a sentence I’ve said in my head for years before uttering it aloud to anyone other than Michael. It still sounds a little surreal to say the words. It feels surreal to be here, spending my afternoons avoiding the Texas heat, filling out adoption paperwork.

Why Houston, you might ask if we were hanging out on our little patio? Well, to adopt, we couldn’t stay in Ireland. This heartbreaking article in the Irish Times explains in more detail why that is, but it essentially boils down to a shortage of adoptable babies, a years-long application process before you can begin your search, and the insurmountable cost of foreign adoption from Ireland.

We have known for a long time that there are babies who need families here in Houston. Michael’s godson was one of those babies ten years ago (this is a video about his adoption story, I cry every time I watch it), and our dear friends here have told us stories of many more since then. When Michael and I got married, we knew adoption would be part of our plan, and we envisioned it would happen at the end of our children, adopting a bonus baby to round out our family. Instead, it will be our beginning. diy-patio-set-metal We’re working with an agency here, and the couple who run it have known Michael for many years. We trust them completely, and we trust that God has a baby for us. I know in my heart that he or she has been chosen already, and that that baby will be so loved.

I wasn’t sure I’d ever share this part of our journey online. In my head, I really only pictured writing a post that introduced our new baby once we had our birth certificate in our hands on adoption day. I’ve written that post in my head at least once a week for a year. But this story isn’t only mine to tell, and while Michael is grudgingly agreeable when I ask him to model something for a blog post, he is otherwise quite private and I have wanted to honor that.

A few days ago, I mentioned to Michael that I was having a hard time with my blog, and he suggested that maybe it was time to start sharing part of this journey. I’m grateful. I’ve never been the type of blogger to share all the nitty gritty details of my life, but this is one big detail that is dictating every move we make at the moment. It has been a hard to speak so vaguely about it all. diy-patio-sets-lime My days here in our Houston Heights neighborhood have been split between working on freelance projects and working on our adoption paperwork. Michael has started a job teaching in a local charter high school. We adore our neighborhood and our apartment is becoming more and more cosy by the day. We’ll be finished with our paperwork later this month and then we wait for the phone to ring, with the news of a baby who will join our family. And I probably won’t stop crying for a month.

Since the start of FCV more than five years ago, Dublin has been so much of my identity and a huge part of what I write about and share with you all. For now, that will change. I worried that you all would expect stories from my life in Dublin and that you would be disappointed by this change. But I was reminded recently that this has always been a space for me to share my life and my adventures. This isn’t Dublin (oh, man, this so isn’t Dublin), but it’s our biggest adventure yet. I hope you’ll come with me as I share it with you.


As an addendum, our patio set. I found it on Craig’s list (thank goodness for Craig, our apartment would be empty without you!) for $30 and ordered $8 of indoor/outdoor fabric from Amazon to cover the seats and had a piece of glass cut to fit the tabletop. The DIY instructions go like this: cut fabric, staple gun to the bottom of the seat. Place glass on top. The end. It’s still too hot in Houston to really sit there for very long, but those days are coming and before you know it, I’ll be sitting there with a cup of coffee and a baby in my arms.

Texas Exploring / Battleship Texas

September 30, 2015

battleship-texas-houston So, turns out there’s a big ol’ battleship just south of Houston. And it’s so cool!

Michael and I spotted a sign for Battleship Texas when we were coming back from the beach a few weeks ago, so when my brother was in town we took a little adventure south for the morning. battleship-texas battleship-texas-3 We spent just over an hour there, but easily could have wandered for longer (except it was very hot!). You can climb up the ladders and down into the decks below, and there are a lot of little areas that are preserved from when the ship was decommissioned in 1948. You can see where the officers ate, and where all the food was prepared. You can see where the sailors slept (hanging four cots tall in the hallways) and how tiny the brig was. It was fascinating.  charlie-battleship-texas Charlie’s a huge history buff, so he knew much more about the battleship and the Battle of San Jacinto, for which there’s a monument across the water.  battleship-texas-san-jacinto-monument reflection-battleship-texas Both my grandfathers served in the navy in World War II, so Charlie and I were thinking a lot about their experience while we were there. Although I called my grandpa today and he said the ship he was on was much smaller, maybe a quarter the size of the battleship, but it was still interesting to think about what their experience was like when they were even younger than Charlie.  mops-battleship-texas ropes-battleship-texas I loved all the details, and the beautiful blue colour. Can you even believe how much paint you’d need every year just to keep her covered?!  uss-texas-deck rope-knots-battleship-texas battleship-texas-2 The guns swivel, by the way, which Charlie found pretty fun. Some of the Battleship Texas’s missiles could travel for twelve miles. So hard to even comprehend how that could even be possible. battleship-texas-deck-water The Battleship Texas would be a great day trip adventure from Houston, and we paired it with a quick pitstop at the beach and some homemade breakfast sandwiches which was a pretty winning combination.

Battleship Texas / San Jacinto Battleground State Park / LaPorte, Texas 

Texas Exploring / Friday Night Lights

September 26, 2015

friday-night-lights-texas-football Michael and I spent the evening with our siblings (my brother and his sister) watching our friends’ kids’ school football game. (Complicated much?) We literally (and I don’t use that word lightly) couldn’t pick our jaws up off the floor for the whole game. None of us had been to such an enormous production!

There were around around 7,000 people there for the Klein Oak vs. Klein Collins district football game. You can see from the photo above, the football team itself was so many kids! Then there were strutters (still unclear what they were all about) and their dads dancing, the 200-strong marching band, some interpretive dancers, a rifle team (also unclear), and countless support staff making it run smoothly for live television! A serious, serious production. houston-high-school-football None of these photos are spectacular, but I want to remember the absolute spectacle of this football game for years to come. I’ve never seen anything like it! The marching band had fifteen xylophones, for crying out loud!  football-game-entertainment-texas high-school-marching-band-texas dancers-high-school-football-texas The strutters (dancers, maybe?) performed a hilarious 80’s dance with their dads. Can you see some of those (blurry) leaping splits in that photo above?! Those weren’t the dads, but the dads were working it, too! We had such a laugh watching them all put in maximum effort for their performance.  klein-oak-klein-collins-football-texas There was some football played, of course, in addition to all the other entertainment, although when we left in the third quarter our team, the Klein Oak Panthers, were getting creamed. Better luck next time, guys!  texas-high-school-football-half-time That stand on the right is where that whole band came from! Almost every seat in the stadium was full.  texas-high-school-football klein-oak-high-school-football At one point, they blew up these giant creatures for the teams to run out of to come on for the second half, led by waving flags. It was insane!

If you’re ever in Texas during football season, find the most important game you can and park it in the stands. The Klein school district north of Houston has serious entertainment value, even if you don’t know much about football!


September 24, 2015

moroccan-poufs-blush Only in writing the word poufs did I realize exactly how strange a word it is. There’s nothing terribly pouf-y, in the onomatopoeic sense, about the cushion-ottoman hybrids, but the name has stuck.

All that to say, I recently came across these gorgeous Barcelonian poufs through sfgirlbybay’s home tour. They’re from a shop called MuiMa in Spain and they’d add an extra cosy vibe to any lounging situation.

Also? I think blush is having a moment in interiors right now. In case you were wondering my thoughts on the matter.  crocheted-poufs

Hoping one of these will be under our feet one day!

MuiMa / muima.bigcartel.com / Barcelona, Spain 

Texas Exploring / Rice University and the Chase Tower

September 23, 2015

rice-university-houston-texas My little brother flew in to Houston late last night so we spent the gloriously sunny (also very hot and humid) day exploring together. We started with a stroll through Rice University, which is such a beautiful campus. My dad took a few graduate classes here when he was trying to figure out what to be after college, and our close friends got engaged here! The architecture is incredible and the trees are enormous.  rice-university-patio rice-university-architecture-2 Charlie, my brother, pointed out that when we were all in college we never fully appreciated what a treat it was to live in such a perfectly manicured place. It’s so true! And also, we never fully appreciated how often we could take naps. We overheard some students talking about how their “undergrad was so hard.” Oh man, I think you’re in for a shock when it comes to real life then buddy! College was dreamy, although I’m not sure I realized that until at least my senior year.  granite-sculpture-rice-university These granite sculptures were enormous. There wasn’t a plaque we could find to learn about them, but we really wanted to know how they got them there! Imagine seeing a slab of granite coming down the highway!  rice-cafe-patio architecture-rice-university rice-university-architecture rice-river-rock-pool This rock pool was so inviting. I might have dipped my fingers in for a few seconds.  trees-rice-university archway-rice-university Trees and archways and brick and towers. It was the perfect spot to stroll and catch up.

When we left Rice, we headed across town to Ray’s BBQ Shack for lunch. No photos but it was beyond delicious and the people were all so friendly. I ordered the sliced beef sandwich and Charlie had the beef tips sandwich with potato salad. We even brought back some of Michael’s favourite as a little surprise – banana pudding! Can’t get that in Ireland, that’s for sure!

Fully stuffed, we headed over to the Chase Tower to see if we could check out the view.  chase-tower-houston-texas art-sculpture-houston charlie-chase-tower-2 And did we ever?!  houston-view-chase-tower-1 Of course, we lucked out with the most perfect weather day possible. Not a cloud in the sky!

The Chase Tower is a 75-story office building, but you can walk into the lobby and take the Sky Elevator to the 60th floor lookout deck. The elevators open right onto this view and a whole wall of windows.  chase-tower-houston houston-view-chase-tower Oh, those freeways. I’ve never seen so much concrete in one place. This girl from teeny tiny China Village has gotten awfully brave on the six-lane highways! And I only get lost 60% of the time!  charlie-chase-tower-houston It’s so nice having my little brother in town. He’s even trying to teach me how to play Snapchat! He’s @09cboyle and he documented most of our day exploring Houston today if you want to follow along!

Chase Tower / 700 Travis / Houston, TX

Street Roundels

September 21, 2015


Last Friday, I went with a friend to The Menil Collection here in Houston, a rather large contemporary art gallery built and curated through the extensive collection of the de Menil family. One of my favorite exhibits currently on is Apparitions: Rubbings and Frottages from 1860 to Now. Frottage is the French word for rubbing, which I absolutely had to Google when I got home. I was too busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing through the exhibit to worry much about the details. Now I need to go back and take more mental pictures of all the incredible rubbings (no photography allowed or I’d be sharing millions!).

I was looking up frottage materials online so I can soon make one of my own, when I happened upon this little Etsy shop full of rubbings from Dublin! They’re rubbings of the street roundels (had to look that word up too!), the metal grates we spend 99% of our time walking over without noticing. These rubbings are such a fun way of documenting the beautiful little details of the city.

Every once in a while, I have noticed those little roundels on the street and I have a whole bunch of photos of them. I’m on the lookout for equally intricate details in our neighborhood to make my own frottage for our walls. When I do, I’ll have another little DIY to share with you. In the meantime, you could just order your own from Etsy!

A Box of Texas Veggies from Rawganics

September 16, 2015

texas-farm-share-rawganics Yesterday, I sat down for a cup of coffee and a chat with Carla, the editor of Local Houston magazine, who gave me about a million amazing tips and tricks for Houston, including the best farm shares and organic food co-ops. So yesterday afternoon I made a last minute run to the Houston Arboretum to collect my very first vegetable farm share box! My sister has had CSA boxes and farm shares in Maine for years, but I never found an equivalent that made sense for us in Ireland. When Carla mentioned Rawfully Organics, I practically ran home to look it up. Turns out their pick up was yesterday afternoon and they had an extra box of veggies available!

So, for $25, we got a big box of these organic vegetables:

a spaghetti squash

a butternut squash

an acorn squash

4 big potatoes

4 big tomatoes

4 little cukes

4 little summer squash

4 little zucchini

2 little eggplants

about 35 okra

and three bunches of new-to-me greens (as in, I have no idea what they are and should have asked!)

Rawfully Organic’s Tuesday boxes are technically a co-op, not a farm share. With a farm share or CSA, you pay in advance for a certain number of weeks and your money helps support the farm in advance. With a co-op, the veggies and fruits have already been grown and you’re supporting a collection of farms at once. (But correct me if I’m wrong!) With this particular co-op veggie system, you can order each week before the Monday cut-off and pick up your veggies on Tuesday or even have them delivered. We’re going to see how long these veggies last us but I imagine it will be about a week.

I’m still new to the grocery store prices over here, but I’m pretty sure our box was significantly cheaper than it would have been to buy all these veggies individually in a store – and these are organic so they would have been even more expensive!


Last night we came home and I tried to do what I’ve seen my sister do with her farm share, and get it all washed and stored so nothing goes to waste. And then I promptly faced what I’m sure is a common farm share panic – what the heck to do with all those vegetables! I figured we may as well start with the most foreign vegetable, the okra, so I Googled “okra for beginners.” Ha! I landed on roasted okra which involves very little work, hardly any ingredients other than okra, and would give us a sense of what okra actually tastes like for the future. We gobbled up every last bite, it was that good!

One of the fun things (although I think some people would hate this!) about a veggie box like this is that all the decisions about what vegetables you get are made for you. There’s no choosing vegetables, you get what’s in season and what’s available in abundance. For me, this kind of thing gets us out of the rut of making the same four dinners over and over again. I’ve had pretty good success Googling or Pinteresting ingredients and landing on recipes that will use certain vegetables. In the name of being prepared to use up all those vegetables, I thought I’d do a little research this morning to make sure nothing goes to waste.

Coconut eggplant curry / Eggplant shakshuka / Sichuan eggplant 

Spaghetti squash with bacon, spinach and goat cheese / Southwestern stuffed spaghetti squash / Thai peanut spaghetti squash

Okra maque choux / Lentil okra curry / Armenian vegetable stew

Quick fridge pickles / Asian cucumber sesame salad / Healthy butternut squash stew

Now, if anyone has any recipes for mystery greens, be sure to pass them along!

Texas Exploring / South Texas and Southside Beach

September 15, 2015

surfside-beach-texas Michael and I had an errand to run earlier today south of Houston. We’ll be here in Texas for a few months, and Michael needed to have finger prints taken so he can work in a school here in our neighborhood. We decided to make a little field trip out of our errand and check out a beach town in South Texas called Surfside. The weather, as it turns out, did not get the memo. It was rather stormy and grey (although still about 80 degrees!), but the clouds reminded me of Ireland and we were both grateful for the expanse of sky and sea, even if it was the rather brown gulf water.  waves-surfside-beach surfside-texas-houses-stilts We couldn’t get over the houses all up on ten foot stilts. I would not like to be around when those are necessary and the beach floods! There were only a few stilted houses remaining on the beach side of the road and they looked like they were a little worse for wear.  colored-houses-stilts-texas green-house-surfside-beach

We loved all the beachy colors in Surfside, with their quirky little details. How fun is that “Surf” sign on this family’s beach house? You can see little specks of orange on either side of the house where a whole array of bird of paradise flowers is flanking the lime green residence.  fishing-jetty-surfside-beach There were lots of people fishing off the jetty in the windy waves.  emily-surfside-beach-texas crane-south-texas-beach This little lady had the best yellow feet!  michael-surfside-beach-texas

graffiti-wall-surfside-beach This wall is actually the back of the public bathrooms! Such a great pattern. Michael was not nearly as impressed, apparently.  graffiti-wall-south-texas hookers-bait-stop-texas surfside-bait-shop We couldn’t figure out if Hook’ers Bait Stop was a boat turned into a building or a building made to look like a boat. Either way, their use of colour far outweighed their misuse of that apostrophe.  surfside-bait-stop-texas Michael and I wondered what Surfside would be like on the weekend or in the height of the summer season since it felt pretty deserted today, but we actually really enjoyed how quiet and local it felt.

We’ll be back and forth to Ireland, Texas and Maine over the next while during Michael’s sabbatical. FCV might be a little geographically scattered, but I hope you’ll bear with me as I share our adventures. I’m hoping we’ll soon get to a new version of normal that includes projects, recommendations and exploring in all our various current homes! 

Happy Friday!

September 11, 2015


Happy Friday, all! How was your week? I spotted a whole stack of pumpkins at the grocery store this week and thought too soon! too soon! And then I realized we’re almost halfway through September! How did autumn creep in like that?

I have a few DIY projects I’m working on this weekend and I’m excited to bust out my camera for the first time in a while and snap a few photos. It’s been weeks since I even took it out of its bag, which is unusual for me. Hopefully you’ll see the results over here next week, if all goes to plan.

While I’m knee deep in polymer clay and staple guns, here are a few little links for your enjoyment this weekend.

25 ways to ask kids “how was school?”  I love this kind of prompt, and I’m sure Michael loves when I try them out on him!

And now I can feel better about not liking lettuce.

The myth of quality time.

Some of my favorite desktop wallpapers turned into cell phone cases!

Someone (ahem, Michael!) borrowed my trusty water bottle this week for basketball and returned home empty handed. Time for an upgrade with a built in filter.

Hugs from afar!

Styled in Ireland / What to Wear to Fly through Dublin Airport

September 8, 2015

dublin-airport-style-title Welcome to another Styled in Ireland post today! This time, we’re talking airport style and we’re making a visit to Dublin airport to learn a few tip for travelers flying into and out of Dublin Airport.

I have such a love-hate relationship with airports. They’re the scene of so many tearful goodbyes, but so many happy reunions. I have to say, Boston’s Logan airport has too many goodbye memories to rate very high for me, but Dublin Airport is one of my favorites. By the time I get there from America, I’ve cried all my goodbye tears and I’m ready to land in my other home. And when I’m headed home through Dublin airport I’m usually beside myself with excitement to see family after at least six months away.

But Dublin Airport can be a tricky one if you don’t know what to expect, so we’ll cover that in just a bit.  dublin-airport-styled-in-ireland-02 First, what to wear for air travel. No matter where I’m traveling, I always wear pants. It’s just too chilly on planes to wear bare legs. In the summertime, I wear walkable, comfortable sandals (these are from Clarks in Dublin!), and in the wintertime, low boots. I usually wear a blazer or light jacket, something that will make me feel put together – and something I can take off when I get too warm going through security.  dublin-tips-airport-style airport-tips-scarf For an extra layer or something to create a makeshift pillow on the plane, I loop a scarf through one of the handles of my tote.   dublin-airport-05 And now, down to the brass tacks of Dublin Airport. Dublin Airport has two terminals, Terminal 1, which is the old terminal, and the brand-spanking shiny new Terminal 2. I have fond memories of Terminal 1 because its where I arrived when I moved to Ireland, and it does have a certain gritty charm to it, but Terminal 2 is so much brighter and prettier. Terminal 1 deals with shorter flights and mostly RyanAir, and Terminal 2 deals with longer haul flights and it has U.S. Customs Preclearance, which is a little tough on the Dublin end, but you’ll appreciate it when you hop off the plane in America. I’ll explain that more in just a bit.  dublin-airport-aer-lingus It’s a bonus when you get a blue-sky day like this at Dublin airport. There are some great views from the back of Terminal 2. It’s well worth taking the longer way through the duty free section of the airport to see all those Aer Lingus planes lined up. Green for days!   dublin-airport-coffee Do you have a trick for keeping track of your passport? Our trick is to keep passports in the exact same spot from the moment we walk in the door. If your passport has a home, you’re much less likely to be scrambling to find it when you’re heading to the airport!  dublin-airport-details what-to-wear-dublin-airport-02 dublin-airport-style-10 And yes, coordinating coffee cups. Couldn’t be helped.  dublin-airport-style-details One fun thing I never knew about terminal two at Dublin airport is that you can have treatments done in the duty free area and you can even get a free hand massage at the Jo Malone store, and you don’t even have to necessarily purchase anything! Although I think you’ll probably want to. Jo Malone makes really delicious scents.  jo-malone-dublin-airport-02 jo-malone-dublin-airport-06 jo-malone-dublin-airport All relaxed, now you’re ready to go through U.S. Customs Preclearance if you’re headed Stateside. I know, twice through security is a kicker – and yes, you have to take your shoes off a second time. I’ll be honest, it’s really not my favorite thing, but it does mean that when you get to America, you don’t have to wait in line or go through customs there.

When you’re leaving Dublin, make sure to take into account that you’ll be going through two rounds of security and a customs check if you’re heading to the States. We try to allot two and a half or three hours because we like to stop for a coffee and have a little browse around the new terminal before we get on a plane for seven hours. It always feels like a reward if we manage to get time for a stroll around after the stress of actually getting to the airport.  dublin-airport-style-06 Apparently this is the face I make when I’m about to go through that second round of security! I do get awfully patriotic when I see the American flag at the airport. And when the homelane security guy at customs says, “Welcome home,” I always get a little weepy and Michael likes to make fun of me.  dublin-airport-tips-visitors dublin-tips-airport-style If you’re flying through Terminal 1, there are a few other things you should know. You won’t have to go through customs and security a second time, but you need to make sure you leave yourself enough time to walk a bit of a distance to your gate, especially if you’re flying with RyanAir. Those gates can be pretty far away!

If you’re flying with RyanAir from Ireland to somewhere else in Europe on an American passport, you need to go to the Visa Check desk near the check in and bag drop desks to get a stamp on your boarding pass. They will not let you on the plane without it and they will send you back to that desk and you will have to go through security all over again. That would be a nightmare. styled-in-ireland-dublin-airport-02 dublin-airport-terminal-3 what-to-wear-airport-dublin And that, my friends, is Dublin Airport in a nutshell. If you’re a frequent flier through Dublin Airport, let us in on any secrets you may have too! Safe travels to and from my beloved airport, friends!

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, catch up on all my helpful Styled in Ireland posts before you start packing!

Sandals: Clarks  / Top: Banana Republic / Watch: Kate Spade / Jeans: Zara / Jacket: Penney’s / Tote: H&M /  Suitcase: Dunnes Stores / Scarf: Penney’s / Photography: Naomi Phillips / Special thanks to Dublin Airport for letting us get a behind the scenes peek and snap these photos even though we weren’t getting on a plane that day!