The Evolution of an Amateur Stand Up Paddleboarding Headstand

em stand up paddleboarding

I don’t do yoga at all, but I got it in my head while we were at Flaggstaff Lake that I was going to do a headstand on my paddleboard just like our guide. It looked hard, but not impossible. It was really hot and humid, so the idea that the worse thing that could happen was falling in the lake wasn’t much of a deterrent. The water was calm, we had a little extra time, and my dad and sister provided great encouragement.

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So basically, you start with your butt up in the air and try to lift your feet using your core. Or at least that was my version of it! It’s an incredible workout for your abs and I’ve been tempted to try one on dry land a few times since we got back to Dublin just for the exercise!

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Tada! This was as close as I got, but at least my toes were pointed!

stand up paddleboarding headstand 3 And I mastered a pretty good forward roll when I lost my balance and could land right on my board without falling in!

Huge thanks to Lani, the recreation director at Maine Huts and Trails for these photographs, and for inspiring me to give it a go! You can see Lani’s much more beautiful SUP headstand at sunset here!

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Maine Adventures: Hiking and Stand Up Paddleboarding with Maine Huts & Trails

flagstaff_lake_dam A few weeks ago, I was invited to spend a night at the Maine Huts and Trails lodge at Flagstaff Lake. I left Michael at home because he is like dessert to mosquitos and instead asked my dad and sister to come with me. My sister and her boyfriend are uber-outdoorsy and it was so helpful to be joined by someone who knew what to pack! I was pretty clueless – the last time I’ve done anything remotely like camping was many, many years ago.


Maine Huts and Trails is a growing network of lodges in northern Maine that offer meals and overnight stays for guests. The whole set of lodges is exceptionally eco-friendly, with wood powered underground heat and even the coolest (albeit only) composting septic system I’ve ever seen. They source all of their food locally, and the family-style meals are delicious and energizing for all the adventuring you’re doing!

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We stayed at the Flagstaff hut, which is set on Flagstaff Lake, a 20-mile long man-made lake. In the 1950′s, the Maine power company decided they wanted to dam the river that ran through the mountains to create electricity. So they bought up all the houses and eventually created this lake. In the autumn, they let the water level drop and you can see the foundations of the houses that used to be there! I’d love to go back and see that, it sounds incredible.

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Because Flagstaff is a man-made lake, there really isn’t any vegetation in the lake. Instead, there is an incredible amount of driftwood from the trees that used to stand where the lake now is. If I lived in Maine you can bet my house would be full of those giant pieces of driftwood! Living in Ireland, a place with comparatively few trees, I’m almost completely deprived of driftwood. I was glad to see the Flagstaff hut decorated their lodges with big chunks of it, though.


That’s my sister all geared up for our hike!

flagstaff_hut_maine maine_huts_and_trails_flagstaff There’s a communal lodge space with a reading room, bathrooms and showers, the dining room with a cosy wood stove and a porch. It kind of feels like you’re living inside an L.L. Bean catalogue in the most wonderful way! It also feels like you’ve arrived at summer camp, which I also absolutely loved. That pine smell will never get old to me.


We were really excited to try out the water activities while we were there. Since Flagstaff is quite shallow and filled with fallen down trees, there aren’t many power boats or jetskis, so it is incredibly peaceful. And the perfect place to try out stand up paddleboarding for the first time!

Lani, the recreation director, gave us a little lesson and we decided to go out at sunset. Sunset! It was just as amazing as these photographs, but probably even more so. My Dad snapped these photos from a canoe paddled by Lani’s husband, a champion canoe poler. Lani and her husband are both Registered Maine Guides, and their family business brings tours of people through the Allagash on canoe and fly-fishing trips. And in her spare time, Lani competes in adventure races around the world. I was a little in awe of their general outdoorsy-sportiness!

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And of course, then Lani tried this out and I was even more in awe! Stand-up paddleboarding headstands with the mountain sunset in the background!

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After completely wearing ourselves out on the paddleboards, we headed back to the hut for an evening campfire.

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The next day, we kayaked and canoed over to visit the dam responsible for the lake. It was a little choppy but the view was breathtaking. I’ve spent a lot of time on Maine lakes – I grew up on a smaller lake south of Flagstaff (called China Lake, if you can believe it! ;), but our lake often has at least a few motor boats or jet skis zipping around. It’s surprising how different a lake feels when there are no machines zooming around you, and Flagstaff doesn’t even have houses along it because most of the surrounding land is nature preserve. It’s so quiet and feels beautifully remote.

flagstaff_lake_dam em_cal_dad_hiking One of the few things I really appreciate about living away from Maine is returning and getting to play tourist in my home state. We usually head straight for the ocean for our exploring, but this was such a good taste of the beauty and different landscape inland Maine has to offer.

Maine Huts and Trails are really inexpensive for what a wonderful offering they have. You sleep in bunks that are perfectly comfortable, warm in the winter and surprisingly cool in the summer. Flagstaff hut has canoes and kayaks to use, and there are extensive hiking and mountain biking trails that branch off from hut to hut. We were *thisclose* to seeing a moose – we even saw fresh tracks – but it was a little too warm for them to be out in the middle of the day. But I bet any other time you went you’d be almost guaranteed to see one!

Special thanks to Lani for giving us the best tour of the area! And of course, thanks to my fearless adventuring companions. It was a wonderful 24 hours.

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New Life / Baby Sam

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One of my oldest and dearest friends had a baby a few weeks ago, and when I stopped by to see her and meet little Sam, of course I brought my camera and coerced her into letting me take a few photographs of their beautiful brand new family. Everyone was even accidentally color-coordinated, how could we not take a few photos?! shepard family 3 baby sam 3 walt and sam 11 em and sam 7


Baby Sam is going to love that backyard when he gets a little older. I can picture him running around, kicking piles of leaves in the autumn and throwing snowballs in the winter. For now, it’s the perfect shady place for this family to snuggle their little guy.

Congratulations, Emily and Walter, on your handsome son. Welcome to the world, baby Sam!

You can see more baby photography here, here, here and here. Find out more about my photography services here

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Delightful Design / Drury Buildings Restaurant in Dublin

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Dublin’s new-ish restaurant on Drury Street called Drury Buildings is currently sitting comfortably in my top three for my favorite interior design in Dublin. Something about the combination of camel leather, turquoise velvet and colored water glasses made me want to stay all evening.  drury buildings dublin 3 drury buildings dublin 4

So stay all evening we did! The cocktails were tasty and the food was delicious. And the company was pretty good, too.

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I’ll let them explain their design choices:

A mish mash of Berlin exterior, New York interior, fine wines, classic cocktails, craft beers and some really cracking food. Take a six story, derelict, old rag trade building in Dublin city centre. Mix a container load of reclaimed bars, floors, doors, church benches, glass, timber and steel from New York. Shake with 2 years of hard graft. Finally garnish with the extraordinary culinary skills of Warren Massey. 

Works for me!

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Drury Buildings / 52-55 Drury Street, Dublin 2 / (01) 960 2095

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Sneak Peek / Delightful Dublin Guidebook


For the better part of a year, I’ve been working with my friend Julie on a Dublin guidebook, which we have lovingly called Delightful Dublin. Today, we’ve decided it’s close enough to finished that we can show you the cover!

Delightful Dublin will be available as an e-guide you can browse through like an online magazine or tote around the city with you when you visit so you don’t miss a single recommendation. We’ve broken Dublin down into six neighborhoods, introduced you to some of my favorite creative people, and outlined the best shops and destinations around the city. We’ve made sure to explain how to navigate public transportation and how to order a proper pint, and we’ve given you ideas for awesome day trips just outside the city. And of course, it’s packed from start to finish with Julie’s beautiful images of my adopted city. 

And as an added bonus, my talented friend and illustrator Ursula Celano has created illustrated maps of each neighborhood, which we’re hoping to have printed too!

I’m so hopeful it will be a beautiful reflection of the Dublin I love, inspiring locals to explore their city and giving visitors the best shortlist of spots to try.

We’re working as hard as we can to make sure the guide is out next month, and you’ll be the first to know when it’s available.

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Let’s Talk About Asking Someone to Take Your Photo

em and charlie 158 picket

Can we talk about asking someone to take your photo taken for a minute? I’m going to be really honest, I don’t know how bloggers rely on their husbands or partners to take their photo day in and day out. Did you know that’s pretty common (like here and here)? Michael and I would actually kill each other if I was a fashion blogger who relied on him to take my photo every day. One of us would not live to tell the tale.

I don’t think having my photo taken is the root of the problem, because I don’t really mind that most of the time. Heck, you know I’ve organized a whole bunch of photo shoots where I’m the subject so I can show you something fun and useful. But lately I’ve become more and more awkward asking anyone, and most often that’s Michael, to take my photo. Every time I see a photo of someone on Instagram that was obviously taken by someone else, I think, how did they ask someone to take their photo? How did they manage not to be completely awkward? How can you take yourself seriously when you’re asking that question?!

Michael is usually fairly obliging if I do ask him to take my photo (like with these lovely photos he took that only caused one almost-meltdown!), but I usually have an exact goal or vision in mind and I don’t always articulate it very well when I’m giving him direction. So then I get flustered and Michael gets frustrated and it almost always ends in one or both of us grumpy for a little while. We have not figured out a good system at all, so I’m continually amazed by people who don’t look totally awkward (and/or grumpy) asking someone to have their photo taken. How do you do it? What is the secret?

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(That’s my not-so-little-anymore brother! He’s almost never awkward. Hi, Charlie! :)

emily at 158 picket Funnily enough, I did not ask Michael to take these photos. Could you tell? That last funny-face one cracks me up. But they are some of the most natural photos of me he’s taken maybe ever, and perhaps that’s the key? Who knows. I’d love to hear how you get over the awkwardness of asking someone to take your photo! Any ideas?

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Back in Action!

dublin tour vayable

We flew back into Dublin this morning, very, very early. I’m trying out a new jet-lag conquering technique that involves giving a three hour walking tour to 8 Canadians and then having Michael boss me through a boxing workout before coming home to unpack. I’m exhausted and will hopefully wake up tomorrow morning back on Dublin time!

I hope you’re having a nice Monday! I’ll be back tomorrow with a little more regularly scheduled programming, including possibly a peek at my new haircut!

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One Day in Belfast, Maine

belfast maine

Only a few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the wonderful day I spent exploring Belfast, Ireland, so I thought it would be fun to show you another Belfast I’ve been exploring! Maine (and most states in America) has a lot of towns and cities named after other places around the world. In fact, in addition to Belfast, we have a Vienna (pronounced Vy-enna), a Paris, a Berlin, the list goes on of names we’ve stolen from our ancestors’ home countries.

Belfast is one my favorite Maine coastal towns. It has lots of little shops and galleries to explore, right on a beautiful harbor, but not too mobbed with people. We went wandering on a kind of soggy warm day and discovered a few shops we’ll be visiting every year from now on!

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We saw a few incredible exhibits at the Northern Lights Fine Art Gallery, which showcases art from First Nation and Inuit artists. We loved the landscapes painted on aluminum that sparkled as you moved around them. And it doesn’t hurt that the outside of the building has an awesome color combination.  food shop blefast

We picked up a jar of Blonde Salted Caramel from Northwoods Gourmet Girl and had it over ice cream for days afterward. It was delicious and the shop was adorable – lots of jams, chutneys and sauces made locally. fiddlehead_artisan_supply_belfast_maine


Fiddlehead Artisan Supply was my favorite new-to-me find – a giant selection of beautiful fabric and art supplies. I wish I knew how to sew! It would be my go-to if I knew how and lived in Maine. bella_books_belfast_maine

Books plus antiques at Bella Books was a super combination had me browsing for quite a while. They had such a nice selection of Maine authors and lots of lovely antiques. belfast_maine_old_stuff


We always stop into Old Stuff Lamps and Shades, although we rarely look at their lamps and shades! I’m a bigger fan of their selection of other random antiques. They often have whole crates of antique cutlery and beautiful old Mason jars.

Since Michael wasn’t with us, we didn’t have to make our usual trip to Three Tides Brewery, but it’s by far his favorite beer in the state. He swears by the oyster stout, just in case anyone is trying to convince their husband or boyfriend to tag along and these shops don’t really appeal!




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I just got back from 24 hours in the Maine woods and I can’t wait to tell you about it….just as soon as I take a shower and wash off all the sunscreen, bug spray and camp fire smoke smell! Maine is such an incredibly special place and I’m so grateful to have the chance to get out in it these last few weeks.

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Maine Exploring / Urban Sugar Donut Truck in Portland



I’ve been ticking away at a very small bucket list for exploring Maine while we’re here this summer. High on the list was visiting the Urban Sugar Donut Cafe, Portland’s only donut truck. I stopped last summer when I think they were only new and only had plain sugared donuts. But I’ve been following their Instagram account and they have seriously jacked up their donuts. portland_donut_truck_urban_sugar_cafe

The Urban Sugar Cafe truck is run by husband and wife donut duo, Kevin and Valeri. They do mini donuts in boxes of 6 or 12, and they have 6 flavors, half savory and half sweet. I was tempted by all, but we landed on a box of the pecan, caramel and chocolate covered donuts. They were excellent, and not even too sweet, if you can believe it. portland_donut_truck_maine portland_maine_donut_truck


Michael looks so concerned with making the right choice in this photo – but I liked how his tattoos fit in with Valeri’s!

The Urban Sugar Cafe doesn’t have a set schedule, but you can find them through their social media – they’re at all the fun events around Portland and even do weddings!

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