Travelogue: Colorado Springs (Part 2)

August 10, 2015

westy-fam-hiking

Good morning! Are you ready for part two of our Colorado Springs whirlwind adventure?! Well, that’s what you’re going to get today. These posts are a little more family-oriented, but I’ve realized they’re as much for me to remember for posterity about our visits, rather than strictly to share tips for the area. But I’m in charge here, so you get what you get! It will be quite fun, though, I promise!

You can see our first day in Colorado Springs here, and our adventures in Boulder and Denver as well. 

We started off day two in Colorado Springs with a hike in the bluffs across the street from Angie’s (my sister-in-law) parents’ house. We popped Eabha in the backpack and put Bogey the dog on the leash and off we went! We’ve explored their bluffs a few times, but this was the longest hike we’ve taken. It’s such an amazing feature to have on your front doorstep. It really feels like adventurous Colorado!

Here’s Eabha getting into her chariot! Dad didn’t get to keep his hat for very long. eabha-in-pack-hike colorado-springs-bluffs This is the view from Angie’s parents’ driveway across to the bluffs. Within a five minute walk you’re scrambling up sun-bleached rock. The last few times we’ve visited Colorado, the state has been ravaged by forest fires. This summer has been so wet with thunder storms every evening that all the plants were lush and green. It felt like a different place altogether!  eabha-steals-hat eabha-hiking Hat robbery! Eabha has the best serious faces.  emily-photographing-eabha-hike colorado-springs-bluffs-3 colorado-springs-bluffs-2 cactus-bluffs-colorado-springs I’m such a Maine girl – cactuses are so novel! But really, cactuses in bloom are pretty fun no matter where you’re from! bluffs-hike-colorado westy-no-2s-hiking-4-large mike-hiking-bluffs Michael’s color-mixing cracks me up. He loves this combination of blue on different blue and he knows it drives me nuts and wears it anyway – on repeat!  mike-hiking-bluffs-3 westy-no-2s-hiking-3-large westy-no-2s-hiking-large-2 Prom photo in the bluffs!  mike-hiking-bluffs-2 mike-and-em-colorado-bluffs So many clashing colors! Ha!  isaac-hiking eabha-and-fam-hiking Eabha was getting a little bored at this point and hanging out the side of the carrier. About five minutes later she conked out altogether.

Our day’s exercise behind us, we hit the showers and headed to another of Angie’s recommendations, Ivywild School for lunch. Ivywild is a former school that’s now this really exciting spot with a cafe, a brewery, a bike shop, co-working space and lots of outdoor deck space for sitting in the sunshine.  ivywild-school-colorado-springs ivywild-school-colorado-springs-cafe The charm is that Ivywild still looks so like a school, both inside and out. We ate lunch at the Principal’s Office, where Michael claimed the coffee was the best he’d had since leaving Dublin! They have a large indoor space with high ceilings and exposed brick, but they also have this awesome outdoor terrace. I can’t imagine how cool that must have been as a student at Ivywild!  principals-office-ivywild-school-colorado-springs principals-office-ivywild-school I loved all the references to school in the Principal’s Office – on their main sign it says “Libations for the troubled” and on chalkboards above the bar there’s handwriting repeating “I will not bring Bristol beer to the Principal’s Office, I will not bring Bristol beer to the Principal’s Office.” Bristol is the name of the brewery at the other end of the school. A playful little rivalry!  principals-office-ivywild-school-colorado-springs-2 coffee-with-eabha-and-animals Eabha brought her animals out to play for lunch. I love that photo on the right. Michael was pounding his chest and saying “What does the monkey say?” You can tell Eabha is saying “Ooh ooh!” with her little lips. Doesn’t get much better!

coffee-principals-office-ivywild-school mike-eabha-angie-ivywild ivywild-school-bulletin We enjoyed our Cuban sandwich and turkey salad with focaccia. I feel like the Cuban is having a revival around the country on the back of the movie Chef. Have you seen it? Michael and I rave about it to anyone who will listen. Such a feel good movie! But it will definitely make you hungry for a Cuban!  ivywild-school emily-angie-ivywild I got a haircut a few weeks ago, but I still feel like I need a haircut. So much hair in my face all the time! bristol-brewing-colorado-springs chalkboards-ivywild-school Fully worn out, in the best way, we headed back to Denver after our jam-packed 24 hours in the Springs. We clearly need more time there next time for more exploring! Thanks, Angie and Isaac and Eabha for being the best tour guides for your other home!

More Colorado exploring: Denver / Boulder / Colorado Springs Pt. 1 

Happy Weekend!

August 8, 2015

nautical-bathroom-vignette

Happy weekend, everyone! How was your week? Manage to squeeze in any summer fun? Michael and I spent a few good work days in China Village while my parents were at their respective offices, but also we also caught up with some college friends for some Portland exploring and time at a lake in southern Maine. The weather has been perfect – not too hot, just sunny enough, and a cool breeze. I had forgotten how amazing August in Maine can be! We’re crossing our fingers the weather will stay just as perfect for my sister’s wedding next weekend. So far, the forecast looks good!

We’re off to pick some blueberries, but in the meantime, here are a few really helpful and useful things from around the interwebs this week.

A mobile school that follows nomadic groups in Kenya.

How to work a room when you don’t know a soul.

Do you really need a microwave and a dishwasher? (I would love to know where you land on this. I used to wish every day for a dishwasher but now I’m not so sure we really need one!)

Eleven easy packing tips. Some gems in here, like how to pack necklaces without getting tangled!

Bookmarking these amazing wall murals for at least one room in our new house. Prices are really comparable to wallpaper but they’re so unique!

How to write a sympathy card, from someone who has recent experience.

Happiest of summer weekends to you all!

It’s Official! We’re Homeowners!

August 6, 2015

new-house Finally, after a whole lot of patience and paperwork, we bought a house in Dublin! It wasn’t our first choice, but we plan on loving it like it was our only choice. It’s light and bright and has a great little open floor plan and a back yard. We’re not sure yet whether it has room for chickens, but Michael is lobbying hard!

We only spent about ten minutes in the house about three months ago, and we still won’t be back in Dublin for a while yet, so we’re lucky to have friends and family who will be taking care of it for us in the meantime – and who sent us a sweet photo of our very first set of keys to a house we can call our own! I have to admit, it didn’t feel official until someone related to us had the keys in their hot little hands. It still feels surreal because it’s been so long since we’ve seen it, and because it’s been so long since we started this process, but it’s starting to feel a little more real.

It does help that we have awesome friends and family who have already been over to inspect and explore – and by all accounts the little girls in my life (Eabha and Elsie) are already big fans!  exploring-new-house First they tested the windows to make sure they were good for peeking!

elsie-eabha-new-house And then they made their way upstairs to decide whether they agreed with me that that carpet has got to go! We all agree! The carpet is going, ladies! But I’ve been told it’s not the first thing on the list. Oh well. We’ll get there!

Photos by Naomi Phillips

Art for Anniversaries / Annual Search

August 4, 2015

leslie-duke-painter We have an anniversary coming up in a few weeks, just after my sister’s wedding. It’s the first time Michael and I will be in America for our anniversary – ever! We’ve celebrated every one of our anniversaries in Ireland usually on a chilly day with a picnic on the cliffs or dinner in town. We have no plans this year, but we’re continuing our relatively new tradition of finding a piece of artwork to add to our collection in honor of our annivesary. It’s our favorite invention from anniversary number six – we don’t buy presents for each other (in fact, we never have!) but we choose a piece of original artwork together. 

Last year we ended up with a gorgeous abstract Lola Donoghue painting in greens and greys. It’s already one of our most cherished possessions.

I took it upon myself to start a little searching online for this year’s piece. Michael’s and my tastes in artwork aren’t vastly different, thankfully, although I do tend to lean a little more girly sometimes. And green, I like way too much green for my own good. But one of the fun things for me to do is collect a bunch of options and see what Michael thinks of each. It’s such an interesting experiment!

For my quick online search, I knew right where to start, with Leslie Duke‘s miniature fruit paintings. I follow Leslie on Instagram and I love seeing her painting process through her snaps. She works primarily in oils, so she often scrapes off what she’s done and starts over again, which is a little symbolic of a marriage, no? sister golden shop art

In another Instagram rabbit hole, I discovered Sister Golden Shop and their vibrant landscapes. I think the color schemes might be a little girly for Michael’s taste, but you never know! If he nixes these I think I’ll opt for one of their watercolor clutches tara andris artwork clouds And finally, I discovered these metallic cloud paintings on Little Green Notebook last year and couldn’t believe what a sparkly fun trick it is! Tara Andris paints clouds onto sheets of metal, so the sky looks like it’s glistening. Living in Ireland has made me appreciate cloudy skies (here are a whole bunch of my favorites from last year!) so these would be apropos of our Irish home.

 

We may land on a totally different look altogether, but the search for our anniversary art is nearly as fun as choosing a piece!

Any artists cross your path lately? I love discovering artists that are new to me!

Travelogue: Colorado Springs (Part 1)

August 3, 2015

manitou-colorado-penny-arcade

These are the Boulder and Denver travelogues from a few weeks ago in case you missed them! 

Wecome to the final city on my very brief Colorado visit a few weeks ago! We spent a whirlwind twenty-four hours in Colorado Springs visiting Michael’s brother Isaac and his wife, Angie, and of course, our niece Eabha. Angie is from Colorado Springs originally but they all live in Dublin now. We see lots of them during the year, but it’s always nice to visit them in the Springs. Angie knows me well since she’s been around for lots of Dublin exploring, so she planned some awesome adventuring for us!

I felt like I really got to see more of the Springs than I had in the past. We’ve hiked the (very, very hard) Incline and wandered into the Bluffs before, but this time we got to see so much of the city. It’s a lovely size for a city, and has nice different neighborhoods and mountains that are so close to the downtown.

We packed so much into the quick visit that I had to break this post into two!

We started with lunch at Amanda’s Fonda (no photos because we couldn’t take our fingers off the chips and salsa!) for delicious Mexican food on a patio along a creek. They had two-for-one margaritas so Michael and I split one. Best decision of the day!

Then we walked up into Manitou, the little town between Pike’s Peak and Garden of the Gods. We’d driven through Manitou a few years ago to get to the dreaded Incline, but we didn’t stop. It’s a funky little hippy town founded around a series of natural mineral springs.

manitou-colorad-springs manitou-incline-colorado You can see that terrible Incline up in the mountains in the distance. A gain of 4,000 feet of elevation over 2,000 steps along a former cable car line. It was terrifying and not for those scared of heights!  mineral-springs-manitou We stayed on solid ground and tried out a few of the mineral springs. I wouldn’t necessarily say they were tasty – they tasted very strongly of minerals – but they were very interesting! I wish I’d caught the look on Eabha’s face when she had a sip of this spring. Let’s just say they wouldn’t put her in a mineral spring commercial!  mineral-springs-manitou-colorado michael-water-gun-manitou-spring Michael decided to fill up his mini-watergun instead of drinking the water.

Then we tried out Manitou’s penny arcade. There are tons of outdoor arcade games and the boys played a few. Eabha sat in a couple but didn’t last long! The boys definitely had more stamina.

manitou-colorado-penny-arcade eabha-penny-arcade-manitou boys-games-manitou-arcade manitou-colorado-springs-2 horse-racing-manitou I’m not a very big fan of games (no one will ever call me the fun one!), but I tried the horse racing and loved it! I was terrible, although held a very early lead for about ten seconds during one game.

After the arcade, we strolled around until it started to rain. We hopped in the car and drove through the Garden of the Gods on the way home, per my request. Thanks, team, for indulging me!  garden-of-gods-colorado-springs red-rocks-colorad-springs When the afternoon thunderstorm had cleared, and we had all had a little rest, we left Eabha with her other grandparents and headed to Hillside Garden Center for their live music and wine evening. Hillside is aptly named for its location on the side of a hill overlooking Colorado Springs and Pike’s Peak in the distance, but it’s also part antique junkyard and full of every kind of lawn sculpture and old junk you could imagine. There’s a washing machine area full of antique washing machines scattered through the bushes, and in the photo below you’ll see a man playing a didgeridoo in an old fountain filled with bowling balls. It’s bizarre and amazing all at once. bowling-balls-junkyard junkyard-colorado A few times each summer, they have live music and you can buy beer and wine, people bring lawn chairs and dance under the gazebo. One of Angie’s friends even had her wedding there! We took a ceremonial photo on the altar in her honor! dancing-junkyard-music-night colorado-springs-junkyard-music-night colorado-springs-junk-yard lower-music-area-junkyard lower-junkyard-welding-demo There was an old school bus you could climb on and a welding demonstration going on in the little lean-to. The whole rambling garden area was remarkably wheelchair and stroller friendly, which was amazing, and it was such fun to explore all the little nooks.  junkyard-fountain old-schoolbus-junkyard-colorado-springs And of course, a geodesic dome with a few ceiling panels missing! There was a chicken coop and a giant sculpture of a chicken as well. Every time you turned a corner, there was another strange sculpture of installment to greet you. geodesic-dome-colorado-springs bridal-suite-junkyard pavillion-junkyard-music-night They serve food at the Hillside Garden center, but we decided to go down to a local restaurant downtown for dinner instead. Day one in Colorado Springs was a blast! I’ll have day two to share with you tomorrow. For continuity’s sake, I’ve been trying to at least get through with Colorado before I share too many of my Maine adventures with you, so I’m anxious to finish up with our Rocky Mountain travels!

Happy Weekend!

August 2, 2015

bug-light-portland-maine

Happy weekend, friends! How was your week? It finally got hot here in Maine, so I spent a little time on the beach in the sunshine with my sister, which was wonderful. For a while there, I thought we were having an Irish summer!

Thank you all for your comments and guilt trips about photo storage! Check out the comments for some helpful tips – and a few terrifying anecdotes! My big old external hard drive has arrived and I’m hoping to back up everything next week. Then it’s time to clear off my poor old Mac and give it a break!

When I wrote about our time in Denver, I mentioned that I’m looking at writing a Delightful Denver guidebook next spring if I can squeeze in a return research trip. But what I didn’t mention is that I’ve already been hard at work putting together a Delightful Portland (Maine 😉 guide! When Julie and I launched Delightful Dublin, we didn’t really talk about the potential for a series, but we’ve been discussing how to bring the delightful treatment to other less-loved but equally delightful cities. I love the idea of bringing attention to cities that fall below the radar when it comes to guidebooks. There are a million guidebooks about Paris and London and New York, but some of the smaller cities are often overlooked. So that’s where the Delightful series of guidebooks comes in! I’m hopeful we’ll be launching Delightful Portland later this year and I’ll keep you posted on other cities as we make a few more decisions in the coming months.

All that to say, this week I spent a morning with an old high school friend of mine who is now a photographer, shooting a few locations around Portland. We had such a fun morning and I can’t wait to share some sneak peeks with you as we’re putting it all together in the next few months.

So that’s what’s been cooking behind the scenes here! But this weekend is all about relaxing with my family. It’s the first time all of us have been together since Christmas, so we’re planning a big family dinner and a day on the lake! My family isn’t so excited about family photo shoots, but that probably won’t stop me! Goodness knows I love me a family photo shoot!

Any exciting plans for the weekend? I hope wherever you are, there’s sunshine. Doesn’t it make an enormous difference? I heard it was even sunny in Dublin today!

Until Monday, have a fun-filled weekend!

Dublin Restaurant / The Pigeon House in Clontarf

July 30, 2015

Pigeon House Restaurant, Dublin, Ireland A few months ago, Michael and I joined our friends Andy and Naomi for a double date night at a restaurant we had been hoping to try since it opened recently. Naomi and Andy had been to the Pigeon House for brunch and raved about it, so we booked ourselves a table and made a night of it. We were all so impressed with our food that I knew I had to share the spot with you. Naomi and I went back for lunch a few weeks ago (just covering all our research bases for ya!) and loved it yet again!

dublin-restaurant-pigeon-house homemade-treats-pigeon-house-cafe A few notes on the Pigeon House. If you’re looking for weekend dinner, make a booking a few weeks in advance. They fill up quickly! We had lunch on a sunny Friday and the tables in the large patio were all taken, but inside there was lots of room for us.

Their burger is serious business. Michael and Andy both ordered it, and subsequently were forced to share a few bites with their wives, and we all raved about it. Best burger we’ve all had in a long, long time. But then again, Naomi and I both ordered pork loin with peas and it was much more fancy than I was anticipating for the cafe setting. There were sauces and flavors neither of us could quite place, but everything tasted utterly delicious together. The boys ordered Irish coffees after dinner and it turns out Irish coffees with 3fe coffee make for a winning dessert.

pigeon-house-cafe-clontarf best-dublin-lunch-pigeon-house-cafe

Since that night, Naomi has had the shakshuka and I’ve had the roasted zucchini, brie and pesto sandwich along with the carrot and coconut soup. All so yum. It’s rare we’d rave so much about so many different dishes at a restaurant, so the Pigeon House has clearly made an impression!

The decor is calm and cool, which I loved. The Pigeon House is in the heart of Clontarf, just a few blocks from the sea, so I enjoyed the blue-grey sea-colored walls and simple wooden furniture.

pigeon-house-restaurant-dublin

The Pigeon House / Vernon Avenue / Clontarf / Dublin 3 

Accessible by the 130 bus from Eden Quay in the city centre. Bon apetit!

How do you store your photos?

July 29, 2015

photo-storage-problems

My nephew Julius demonstrating how photo storage makes me feel! Let’s just lay down on the floor and pretend we don’t have a problem! 

I am embarrassed to admit that I currently have 21,000 photos on my Macbook. My Macbook isn’t terribly happy about it, as you might imagine, and it’s the number one thing Michael nags me about whenever he tries to use my computer. I back up some of them to a hard drive, but the hard drive isn’t big enough to hold all 21,000 photos, so some of them remain un-backed-up as my Macbook inches toward its fourth year of service.

I’m certain I don’t need all those 21,000 photos, but the idea of going through them and even just deleting duplicates or near-duplicates makes me want to crawl under my bed and never come out.

I’ve spent a little time this week trying to back up photos year by year into the Amazon Cloud, mostly because I was ordering a new, much bigger hard drive to hopefully deal with part of my problem, and Amazon started shouting at me about their Unlimited Photo Storage for $11.99/year. Trouble is, it takes bloody forever to upload so many photos! A week has passed and I think it’s backed up about 5,000 photos but seriously slowed down the internet in all of China Village in the process!

So I’m kind of just wondering what all of you nice people do with your photos? How do you back them up? And if you’ve ever gotten to the point where you have 21,000 photos, what did you do with them all? How did you find your way out of that black hole and into to a good photo storage system?

And don’t even get me started on photo books. I would love to print some of these 21,000 photos so someone other than just me could enjoy them. But where to start and how to choose? And once you choose, you have to design it and print it and honestly, who has the time?

I’m hoping that admitting (publicly and for all the internets to see) that I have a serious problem will be a step in the right direction. And fingers crossed I’m not the only one! I’d love your tips and suggestions or maybe even an intervention?

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

pearl-street-boulder-2

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!