Mixing Lives

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On Christmas Eve, my family sat around the table together for the dinner we always have on Christmas Eve, or at least for as long as I can remember. In fact, now we have it whether we’re apart or together, since I’ve started making the same thing in Dublin as well, but it’s even more special in its original place.

My mom made her French onion soup and fresh French bread and salad. This year, we added specially imported (in my suitcase!) artisan Irish butter that was so much more yellow and delicious than its American counterparts. And we sat at a table decked out with an Irish linen tablecloth I sent my mom last year for Christmas. We share a few bottles of red, a montepulciano and a tempranillo. Since my father-in-law introduced those to our family, they’re the go-to’s now.

 

 

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I like when my two lives mix so happily.

 

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Ireland for Foodie Visitors

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Want to know what we packed alongside Christmas presents when we came to Maine last month? Irish butter. We meant to pack some Irish cream as well, but we thought that might make a much bigger mess if it spilled in the suitcase. We just couldn’t imagine spending the holiday without a little Irish dairy, we are that addicted.

I wrote a piece for Conde Nast Traveler before Christmas about ten foods you have to try when you’re visiting Ireland. It was so hard to narrow the list down to only ten, and there is a very strong dairy theme that will probably become clear pretty quickly! I’d love to hear what you’d add to the list. If I had another ten to add, I’d include Keogh’s crisps and Butler’s hot chocolate. Nothing like starting Monday morning hungry!

Posted in Dublin, Exploring Ireland, Truly Irish | 1 Comment

2015: Resolutions and Goals

2015 resolutions

As promised, today is about resolutions and goals. Some people aren’t big on the lists, but I am not those people. Partly because I’ve never felt too much pressure to perfectly complete my New Year’s resolutions. It took me two years of resolving to stop cursing for it to really work. The first year was an improvement, but the second year I really kicked it. Now I only swear in very dire circumstances, which I think is a pretty okay way to live life. A few years ago, I resolved to stop using cans and jars of pre-made sauces in our cooking and we’ve nearly cut out all of that as well. I could do better on salsa and pasta sauce, but they’re the only hold outs of the bunch, really.

So in the spirit of making resolutions again and making them stick, here are this year’s! Full disclosure, 1,2,3 and 5 are repeats from last year with a little tweaking.

1 / Take a painting class. This is exactly the same as last year. I got so close this year and even put it on my calendar several times, but then I wimped out. Sometimes it’s just so scary to start something you’ve put down for so long.

2 / Ask my mother-in-law for piano lessons. Mother-in-law, this is me asking you for piano lessons. Please? (The back story, so far as I understand it, is that my dear mother-in-law was planning to teach all her children to play piano until her darling son Aaron made it miserable for her and she went on strike. Twenty years ago. She still plays and they still have a piano, so I just want a few refreshers!)

3 / More books, less phone in bed. Michael and I both use our phones as alarm clocks, and we both check our social media and email before bed and when we wake up. So far as I can tell, it’s not really affecting our sleep, but everything everywhere says it’s terrible for you, so the phones are getting left in the kitchen to charge overnight and I’m on the hunt for two cute alarm clocks for our bedside tables.

4 / Spend more time with friends. Michael and I are both feeling so passionately about this one, too. Last year, so many times we would say to each other, we should really make plans with so and so. And then we would forget. So this year, we have a list and we are getting started this month!

5 / Back up my photos and print photo books. I have no excuse other than the thought of this is so miserable and time-consuming that I can’t bring myself to do it. This might end up on next year’s list, too.

6 / Create a better schedule less dictated by travel. I realized in the last few months that my plan of cramming in as much work between trips was making those in-between times unpleasant and the trips themselves more stressful. We already have several trips planned for the first half of 2015, so I’m not sure how this will play out, but I do not want to be a lunatic whenever I’m in Ireland this year!

Last year, I also made some goals for my professional life and I was a little more successful in completing them. For example, I finished Delightful Dublin, started hosting advertisements on the sidebar, filmed more video content, and hosted another lifestyle blogger meetup. Four out of five ain’t bad! So here are a few goals I have for From China Village for this year.

1 / More quality, less quantity. I’m realizing that the blog posts I love the most on blogs I love are longer, more thorough and more thoughtful. I’m toying with the idea of posting less frequently on From China Village but with deeper posts. As I work on the editorial calendar for the next few weeks I’m going to see what might work.

2 / More video. I’m still excited about adding more video to the mix, but I’m thinking possibly travel-related instead of DIY, at least for From China Village. 

3 / More routine, less reactive. I have to admit that the latter half of 2014 felt like I was always reacting or posting content I was writing in other places. I still want to share with you my writing in other places when it’s something I think you’ll enjoy, but I also want to spend more time creating content just for From China Village. 

4 / A makeover, maybe? The last time From China Village got a makeover was three years ago. I still love the design, but it might be time for a little facelift.

5 / Get Delightful Dublin printed. On paper, for you to buy in a bookstore. I love Delightful and I know it would be beautiful to flip through whether you’re actively planning a trip to Dublin or not. I haven’t figured out how to make this happen, but I will! And I’m open to suggestions…

6 / Grow. This year, I would love for From China Village’s audience to grow, and I want to spend more time making that happen.

Last year I also made goals for improving our little corner of the world and we actually did pretty well with those too! I don’t have big plans for our apartment in the coming months, but I am planning on sharing our finished living room and entryway with you very soon. They’ve been 95% finished for months now and this is just the push I need to make it happen! For those who are especially curious how last year’s house resolutions ended up, we did install a motion sensor light at the front, we still don’t have a functioning doorbell, we haven’t landscaped the back garden and the floors are only one step closer to being fixed! See, very far from perfectionism, but a good dose of improvement.

I’d love to hear what resolutions or goals you’re making for the new year, or how it’s going so far?! It’s almost hard to believe 2015 is already underway!

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A Frozen Maine New Year’s Day

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I went out this morning, bundled against the 17 degree weather and armed with a borrowed camera to take a few photos of New Year’s Day in Maine for a post on Conde Nast Traveler that should be up later today. I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly excited about my morning project. The sun was out, but the wind chill made the temperature drop to a real feel of 5 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t really conducive to a photo walk where you need at least a few functioning fingers. We also don’t have any snow, so the beautiful winter wonderland Maine I was hoping to show the world was looking a little brown and dull.

But I bundled up in my mom’s puffer coat (because nothing I brought can really cope with 5 degrees) and headed off in the younger of the old Volvos to find something picturesque that would do Maine justice in a round-up of New Year’s Day around the world. I found some cows having breakfast, and a flock of turkeys munching in a nearby field. I drove past some crazy ice fishermen who had managed to survive their questionable decision to drill holes in ice that totally isn’t thick enough way too close to open water.

I was headed home, figuring I had enough to work with, when I noticed a stream running under the road from one side to the other. I pulled over and parked the car. I walked back along the road, camera in hand. From the road, I could see the stream was bigger than I had initially thought, flanked on either side with frozen chunks of ice. Perfect, I thought, this will be much more picturesque than the turkeys.

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So I crunch, crunch, crunched my way along the stream, holding branches back as I picked my way along the frozen oak leaves. As I got further along the stream, I realized that barely twenty yards away was a full fledged waterfall. Waterfalls are beautiful any time of the year. Surprise waterfalls are more fun. But I’ll bet surprise waterfalls in below zero weather win the waterfall prize. Big mounds of ice were freezing along both sides, creating the illusion of snow. The drips were forming into stalactite-looking icicles and snowflake-looking crystals in every pool and puddle.  waterfall_china_maine_2015

A few weeks ago I was so excited about the prospect of a new year starting. Before Christmas, I was already starting to think about what I would do with the clean slate and the extra time the holidays were taking up. I wanted to enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it felt a little like everything was on hold until they passed – there was exactly enough time for what needed to be done, but no extra room for the dreaming and planning of things to come. In addition to the excitement of the holidays, I was physically buzzing at the excitement of a new year beginning, of the sheer hope those fresh chances bring.

But at some point over the last few weeks, that spirit of excitement for the beginning of 2015 disappeared. We had a wonderful holiday, full of laughter and chats and warmth with my family. But here and there, I found an underlying heaviness to it. Sickness and injury and a few sadnesses among our ever-growing extended family made it feel as if the holiday cheer was under fire, like we were all holding it up with all our strength. For the last few days, I’ve felt worn, and when I woke up this morning on the first day of 2015 I just felt worried. Worried that all those projects and goals and clean slate resolutions I was so looking forward to starting today just wouldn’t work. I was worried that my own brute strength couldn’t pull off my ideas and improvements, and what if I was just setting myself up for disappointment?  frozen_waterfall_maine_2015

So I suppose that was the underlying problem my mind was chewing on when I headed out this morning, camera in hand. And when I happened upon my surprise freezing waterfall, it cracked the shell of worry that had been building over the last few weeks of worrying about my family that was threatening to sink its tentacles into 2015. With the sparkling sunlight and spraying, splashing mist, the worries shattered.

My surprise freezing waterfall was a message, it was God’s way of saying to me, Look what I did! I made this amazing, intricate, awe-inspiring thing! Don’t you worry, we’re going to do those amazing things on your list. You still get to be filled with that big, buzzing excitement of hope. splashing_waterfall_maine_winter

I believe strongly (and rationally) that worry does very little to help anything, I’m a problem-solver and I’m armed with lists! But it’s scary how pervasive a feeling worry can be, and how heavily it can weigh on your spirit, sinking its tentacles into whatever it can find and creating pockets of doubt. Worry will probably always be there, and as our family grows, the problems will sometimes seem to multiply. But today I was reminded (for me it was by the God I believe in, but for you it might come from nature or the universe, or even from me right now!) that we can’t allow the worry to overshadow the rest of our lives, and that the big, buzzing hope of starting a fresh new year is still very much there and ready for the lists. ice_waterfall_maine_2015 waterfall_maine_new_years_day winter_icy_waterfall_maine I returned to the house lighter and ready for the lists, with freezing fingers that tingled as they thawed. Tomorrow, there will be resolutions and lists and clean slates. Tonight, I am thankful to be finishing the first day of 2015 with that buzzing excitement of hopefulness again. 2015 is going to be big and bright, and I hope you and yours are filled with that incredible spirit of hope that a new year (and a surprise freezing waterfall) brings. xx

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Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! I accidentally and unintentionally fell off the radar in the last week or so while spending time with friends and family back in Maine. I can’t say I feel particularly rested heading into 2015, but I am armed with my list of resolutions (love ‘em!) and ready to take on the new year. I’ll have those to share with you tomorrow, but in the meantime, thank you for sharing 2014 with me. I hope you have a healthy and happy last day of 2014 and I’ll see you on the other side!

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Delightful Dublin Guidebook Holiday Discount!

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Just like that, Christmas is right around the corner. It’s not even possible that it’s surprising – we’ve been talking about it for months – but yet how is it so close?! I went to order a gift online today and was out of luck because it won’t get there in time for Christmas. Ack!

So I figured a few of you might be in the same predicament and are spending your last few days looking for great online gifts. Terrifying side note/trivia fact, did you know Amazon’s busiest time for ordering gift cards is Christmas morning?! I’m not sure where I heard that, but it’s a little depressing, so we’ll get back on track.

In case you’re in the market for a last minute gift that doesn’t rely on postage, you can order a copy of my guidebook, Delightful Dublin, and receive it instantly! If you’re like me and like to have something physical to accompany an online gift, order a copy, then send me a note and I’ll email you a file you can print and include in a card! It’s a pretty affordable little gift for anyone who loves Dublin or is planning a visit!

Use the code HOLIDAY25 to get 25% off the price of Delightful Dublin, so that’s only $9 for 250 beautiful pages of inspiration and information on this delightful city. Ho ho ho!

Order right here!

*Discount applies to postcard packs (see those right here) as well, but you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to get those! 

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A Glimpse

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Just a glimpse of the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona from our weekend visit this weekend. What an awesome space, in the most true sense of the word.

Since returning to Dublin, it’s been all go to get ready for yet another plane this weekend back to Maine for Christmas. But the real work is winding down and the Christmas festive cheer is ramping up in the next few days. I’ll have just a few more posts to share before taking a break for the holiday.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Wednesday!

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Simple Printed Wrapping Paper / Video on Evoke.ie

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I’m over on Evoke.ie again today with a little video showing how to make this simple printed wrapping paper. One of my favorite tricks for wrapping gifts is to take inexpensive rolls and spruce them up with my own stamps or stencils. It instantly elevates just about any gift!

Have a peek here.

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A Christmas Card Magnet DIY and PicPack Giveaway

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Happy Friday, friends! I thought I’d show you our Christmas cards this year and how I DIY jazzed them up with some cute magnets from PicPack! And then I thought I’d do a little giveaway of a pack of magnets from PicPack since I think they’re fab. How’s that for a Friday plan?

First, a peek at our Christmas cards this year! When I was home in Maine over Thanksgiving, I read in the Design*Sponge weekly newsletter that Staples was having a Black Friday deal where if you bought any single thing in the store you could get a coupon for 25 free Christmas cards. So I stopped in for ten seconds and one very inexpensive pack of tissues and got my coupon. It’s the one and only Black Friday purchase I’ve ever made and I’m thrilled with how the cards turned out! They’re along the lines of all my other minty holiday decor this year, and they’re VERY cheerful.

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I used one of the photos Ashley took of us, sitting on the steps of one of Dublin’s iconic Georgian buildings, right in front of the most perfectly turquoise green door. The colors worked perfectly with the geometric photo template. That’s the back of the card on the right in the photo above. Well, minus the bits in the middle. That’s the DIY jazzed up part I’m going to show you!

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So once I had the cards all printed (you can pick them up 24 hours after you order them! Score one for Staples!), I ordered magnets from PicPack. I’ve used PicPack to print Instagram photos before and loved the quality of their magnets – the colors come out great and the magnets are really strong. This time, I used higher resolution photos instead of Instagram photos and they’re even lovelier! I ordered a selection of Christmassy ones, like pine boughs and Bean boots, as well as a few more of Ashley’s photos of us.

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The magnets arrived just a few days later and I started jazzing up those Christmas cards. The only complaint I have with the geometric back of the Christmas card is that it make it a little hard to write the actual Christmas greeting. So I used blank minty green cards I had left over from our save the dates about seven years ago! I tell you, it pays to hoard stationery supplies! I took out some washi tape and used that to affix the blank cards to the Christmas cards and stuck the magnets on top using regular Scotch tape. Metallic Sharpies are my go-to for all things wrapping, they make anything look a little more fancy!

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On a few magnets, like the pine branch ones, I used the metallic markers to write on them, so they’ll be a little something our friends and family can put on their fridge and add a little holiday cheer. You could get really clever and write in speech bubbles over kids’ photos as well.

And now the fun part! I’m giving away a free pack of 12 magnets from PicPack to one lucky reader. To enter, head over to Facebook and like and share this post! I’ll choose a winner on Tuesday at noon (Irish time) so you can have your magnets by Christmas!

If you don’t win, you can still order your PicPack magnets today and have them in a week! They have free shipping worldwide, which always makes me particularly happy since Ireland hardly ever gets that!

Good luck and have a happy weekend!

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We’re Off to Barcelona!

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It feels like I only touched down in Dublin yesterday (really it was just over a week), but Michael and I are hopping on a plane tonight for a long weekend in Barcelona! Neither of us have ever been, but we’ve spent enough time in Spain to know we can’t wait for the wine and the coffee!

Have you been to Barcelona? Care to share your must-do, must-see tips? I’d love your advice for enjoying the city.

While I’m gone, I’ve set up a post with a little DIY Christmas card action for tomorrow, including another little giveaway!

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