Off to Croatia!

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Next Monday, Michael and I are headed to Croatia! Before Christmas, Michael came home from a basketball fundraiser with a surprise. He had won short-haul AerLingus tickets in the raffle! That guy has great luck winning trips. So, we booked the longest short-haul we could find, to Dubrovnik for the week before Easter. It’s not going to be very warm yet, but we’re hoping for a little of that sunshine that seems to make the city glow.

The above image is from Nathalie’s visit to Dubrovnik, and we’re also bookmarking her romantic spots in Dubrovnik post too! We’re staying in an apartment up in the mountains above the city, and we’re renting a car. I think I’ve convinced Michael that we should kayak, even though he categorically hates kayaking, and we have a trip to a vineyard planned!

Have you been to Dubrovnik? I would love to hear your tips!

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Landing Strip Makeover

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In the next few months, unless something really unexpected occurs, Michael and I will be moving out of the sweet little apartment we’ve lived in for the last five years. We’re in the process of trying to buy a house that will give us a little more space, and while we aren’t sure when we’ll leave this home, it will likely be sometime this summer. I’m already getting soppy envisioning our last night in what was truly our first home as a married couple. We have so many happy memories here – parties, kittens, chickens, dinner parties, fights and some of the saddest and loneliest moments of my life, but also the making up and moving on and growing that happens in a home.

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I’m sure I’ll have so much more to say about the move and the changes we’re planning in the coming months, but in the meantime, I realized I hadn’t shared the changes we had made to a few more of the rooms in the house last year! Really, since there are so few rooms, it’s only the entry room and the living/dining room that I have left to show – and since we’re running out of time here, we’re going to forget that it’s not Pinterest-perfect!

I lovingly call the entry room our landing strip, because it’s where we enter and drop everything. Jackets, bags, motorcycle helmets and gloves and pants, so many shoes, mail and bills and grocery bags, all start and live here. Luckily, this is where the only closet in the apartment is, although it is half full of the immersion hot water heater (which you have to turn on half an hour before you want a shower every single time, don’t get me started!) and half full of shelves up to the ceiling.

You can see the before photos here!

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Last year, when we decided to paint the whole apartment white instead of cream, we also tried to make each of the spaces work better for us. We moved the standing wardrobes out of the bedroom so that we could walk all the way around the bed and it was life changing. It made such a big difference. We moved the wardrobes into the landing strip and effectively turned the room into all storage. It once held my desk, but since the internet signal won’t reach that far, it didn’t make sense to keep it there, so we sold the desk and I work on the dining room table now instead.

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This is an old photo of the phone seat that sits opposite the front door. I realized I completely forgot to snap any photos of it, plus Coco was snoozing on it and he just looks like a black blob in photos! You can see a few more photos of it here!

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You can see Coco snoozing there on the phont seat to the right, and on the left are the two wardrobes, which I painted blue. We obviously have more shoes than we have storage, so Michael’s giant basketball sneakers and coaching runners go underneath the bench. A few pairs of mine go in the basket, and we keep scarves and hats in the bucket.  landing_strip_shoes windows_landing_strip

When I found light blue paint for the wardrobes, I thought light blue with accents of red might be cheerful. I ordered red pom pom trim from Ebay in America and my mom brought it with her when she visited in October. I’m not the biggest fan of red, but the contrast with the white is ultra perky. landing_strip_curtains

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The room is quite narrow, so quite difficult to get much of a shot of every wall. We bought the sideboard my first year in Ireland for €11 on Ebay! It holds extra bedding, all those grocery bags, extra hats and mittens, all our keys and sunglasses, and the ever-important junk drawer. The light fixture is from Irish designer Grainne Lyons. It comes in flat pieces and you put them together yourself. It took us a few tries, but once we got the hang of it, assembly was quite simple. sideboard_landing_strip

But of course, more fun is the set of shelves above the sideboard. They’re inexpensive Ikea shelves and brackets, wrapped with colorful washi tape around the edges.  souvenirs_landing_strip

I brought that little cross stitch back from Amsterdam last week! Isn’t it adorable? It was €5 at the Noordmarkt and it was made and framed in 1983, the year I was born. The creature creamers are from Avoca a few years ago, and the painting is a limited edition print by Irish artist Lola Donoghue. My favorite trick with art is to buy a slightly less expensive frame and have a framer cut a mat to fit, making it look much more polished without breaking the bank. shamrocks_landing_strip_makeover

My mother-in-law painted the landscapes, and we rescued them from her parents’ farmhouse before it was torn down. The pottery dish was a wedding gift and is one of my favorite possessions. The salt and pepper shakers are from the Oh Joy for Target collection and I picked them up on clearance last time I was in America! One cracked in transit back to Dublin, but eventually I’ll superglue it back together.  landing_strip_birdcage

We keep loose change and coins from other currencies in the old tea tins. And for Christmas this year, my mother-in-law made us these little salt dough ornaments that represent the homes we’ve had. First, our little “Hobbit House” as we called our tiny basement flat where we lived for a few months when we first arrived, and then this house. On the back they even have tiny labels with our addresses and the dates. Such a lovely keepsake idea!

I have to say that having this whole room function as storage has made our home so much more pleasant in the rest of the rooms. It’s still a tight squeeze for all those pairs of shoes, but that keeps us from buying anything that won’t fit! It’ll be interesting to see whether more space means we end up with more things. I hope not!

In a few weeks, when the garden fills in a little, I’ll share the final room in our little apartment. Our dining/living room is where we spend the bulk of our time and it’s so bright no matter the weather. Back soon!

Check out our bedroom, bathroom and hallway makeovers too!

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Wandering Amsterdam: Bicycles, Canals and Crooked Buildings

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The first and only other time I visited Amsterdam was with Michael several years ago. We accidentally arrived on Queen’s Day, the Netherlands’ biggest celebration of the year, when they all dress in orange and shut down all the public transportation, and throw a giant party in the streets. Like St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin times 800. Concerts at every crossroads, people packed shoulder to shoulder, quite a lot of weed smoke, and more men peeing in the street than I was used to seeing. It was a shocking way to arrive into Amsterdam, and unfortunately meant that the few days following were spent climbing over the piles of garbage in the streets. There was honestly about a foot of garbage layered on the ground everywhere for at least the first full day after Queen’s Day. We had a wonderful time together in spite of it all, but I was interested to see Amsterdam in normal mode instead of party-on-steroids mode.

The funniest thing is that Michael enjoyed that big party so much he went back the next year for the celebration! I stayed home and enjoyed the peace and quiet, and I’m so glad I got to experience the city in its natural state.

Needless to say, I came home with an abundance of photographs of canals, bicycles and crooked buildings. Here are some of my favorites.

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My traveling buddies. You can read more about the rest of our adventure, where we ate, shopped and explored right here porch_houseboat_amsterdam em_in_amsterdam

Thanks, Anne, for the snap of me! I dressed nearly perfectly for the weather, although I could have used a pair of gloves! My fingers were frozen, even in the sunshine!  bicycles_canals_amsterdam

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When Michael and I visited Amsterdam before, we climbed to the top of that tower in the distance. It was so scary, in part because the last leg involves a wooden ladder, and also because the tower leans into the street.  amsterdam_street amsterdam_shadows_canal amsterdam_phone_bicycle

This girl, on her phone on the bike! Ack! amsterdam_flower_shop amsterdam_crocuses_flower_boxes amsterdam_canal_bicycles amsterdam_bicycles_canals amsterdam_bicycles_canal amsterdam_bicycles_buildings amsterdam_bicycles_2 amsterdam_bicycle_4 walking_amsterdam

In case you’re not already convinced, I’d recommend Amsterdam in a heartbeat. And it’s a great weekend break from Dublin – my flights were around €100 on Aerlingus and it’s an hour and ten minute flight to Schipol Airport. Amsterdam is so easy to get around via tram/bus/metro, the people are beyond friendly, the food is delicious and everything is pretty! Let’s all go back!

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Happy Friday! And a Few Fun Places on the Internet…

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Happy Friday, dear friends. This week was full of sunshine and a little extra time with my niece as my mother-in-law, who regularly babysits her, had knee surgery. I was only too happy to fill in!

I’m between freelance projects at the moment, with a few weeks of calm that I’m trying to spend with my friends and family before things pick up again. Michael and I have some big changes on the horizon in the next few months, so we’re trying to take advantage of the rest when we can get it. We took a few walks when the sun was shining and worked on planning our trip to Croatia in a few weeks. Spring has sprung and the days feel long and full of promise.

Here are a few things that made my week.

My friend Anne introduced me to the iCloud shared photo streams this week and I spent most of the evening sharing photos with my family. Sometimes technology is just awesome. I’m sure I missed a trick on this one – I think it’s been around for a while – but I’m loving it!

Did you know St. Patrick had such a lovely prayer on his breastplate? Or that he was an escaped Welsh slave? This is a cute little video history of St. Patrick.

I’m excited to try Cocu Kitchen, which just opened today in Dublin, serving healthy salad-y things. On their opening day, they donated their proceeds to Foodcloud Ireland, which connects businesses that have too much food with food pantries around the country.

I was going through old earmarked articles and found this post from Jane Flanagan (an Irish expat living in Canada) about authenticity and it’s profoundly quotable and important in this ultra-curated-Instagram world. “Authenticity can be captured by a photograph taken in a certain moment, but it can’t be constructed for a photograph.” A good reminder.

I’m in the market for a spring jacket, but I think this one might be too heavy? It’s awfully cute, though.

Michael and I have moved another small step toward owning a home here in Dublin this week, so of course I have responded by pinning home inspiration like a lunatic.

Baked French toast bite kebabs sound like an awesome idea – and they sound like a mouthful, in more ways than one!

I hope you have a restful weekend, full of friends and family and sunshine.

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Three Days in Amsterdam with Friends

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It’s hard to believe that just ten days ago I was in Amsterdam walking and talking with my friends Anne and Ashley. It’s even harder to believe Anne is on a plane to Japan right now and Ashley spent last weekend in Rome! These girls share my travel bug and we were all so grateful to squeeze a little girlfriend visit into our busy lives.

I thought I’d start by giving you all the details of where we ate/explored/shopped in our short three days in Amsterdam. Next week I’m going to share eight million photos of bicycles and canals, because I realized they were cluttering up this post. I must have stopped on every corner to take photos of bicycles and canals that were *slightly different* but mostly the same. But you’re going to get that post anyway, because that’s what makes Amsterdam so ‘dam appealing.

And there’s a little round-up at the bottom of all the spots we visited and links to their websites!

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My travel buddies! volkshotel_amsterdam

First things first, we stayed in the Volkshotel on the southern side of Amsterdam. We were swayed by their triple rooms, and when we arrived we all enjoyed the big open plan work spaces, beautiful flower arrangements, and hilarious signage. The hotel is a former newspaper headquarters, so there is blown up newspring of actual Volkspaper pages on the walls. They also have a selection of rooms designed by local artists, some of whom work out of the studios in the back of the hotel. One of the rooms has a life-size plastic deer and you are allowed to climb on it. That’s an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  volkshotel_amsterdam_2

We also had lunch our first day in the restaurant at the top of the hotel, overlooking the city. Their open-faced sandwiches are awesome and cheap on delicious bread. Their menu also includes moments of hilarious translation that cracked us up for our whole trip. Instead of chickpeas, they called them chicken nuts, and that about did us in.  dotty_tables_amsterdam

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We had much needed coffee the first day at Coffee and Coconuts, which we initially thought was Coffee and Donuts. The enormous and airy interior made up for that initial disappointment. Exposed brick, Michael Jackson posters on the walls, and three floors of seating.   coffee_and_coconuts_amsterdam_3

 

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Another day, in another moment of starvation, we happened upon Toastable at just the right moment. Toastable does triple decker toasties, or toasted sandwiches, and they were life-saving. The girls went for normal-ish combinations (I say normal-ish, but Ashley ordered the “old cheese” version of every meal on this trip), but I went for Grandma’s meatballs with cheese and peanut sauce. It sounds bizarre but it was one of the yummiest sandwiches I’ve ever had. And I can safely say I will never be able to properly recreate it again in my life. A once in a lifetime triple-decker toastie!  i_amsterdam_sign de_pijp_markt_amsterdam

We loved the de Pijp neighborhood, which was in walking distance from our hotel. Lots of cool restaurants and cafes, and a giant daily market. You can spy a little more on this neighborhood on my friend Ajda’s Instagram since she lives very close!  amsterdam_noordmarkt noordmarkt_amsterdam

We also loved the Noordmarkt in the opposite area of the city, but it’s only open on Mondays from 8-1pm. Can you believe there was a selection of gently worn LL Bean boots at the market in Amsterdam? I nearly bought some just because they reminded me of Maine. I’ve decided that once we buy a house in Dublin, I’m going to rent a van and drive it to Amsterdam and stock up on furniture. I’m quite convinced it will be cheaper and the furniture will make me happier than anything we’d find here. We’ll rent a big van, anyone want in?  ranunculus_amsterdam

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We visited possibly the coolest travel bookstore on the planet, and Anne was in heaven. Anne teaches a Skillshare class on creating your own maps, so it was her mecca! So many maps and globes! Anne visited the Stedelijk Museum and loved it, and the other two girls also tried the Foam Photography Museum while I took a wander on my own. girls_in_amsterdam

Of course, we also took lots of photos and shared lots of Instagrams!  ashley_photographer_amsterdam

Ashley shot a bunch of film, so those will be fun to see when she gets them developed!   amsterdam_street_lamps

So, here’s what you can pack into three short days in Amsterdam with girlfriends!

Eat: De Ysbreeker / Toastable / Winkel 43 / Juice & Salad Cafe / Volkshotel / Flamingo

Coffee: Headfirst / Scandinavian Embassy / Coffee & Coconuts

Explore: Foam Photography Museum / Stedelijk Museum / Noordmarkt

Instagrams to follow for more : Ashley / Anne / Ajda / Me!

Next week, more beautiful canals, millions of bicycles, and lots of leaning buildings!

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Berlin for The Hive Conference and an Irish Blogger Discount!

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I mentioned in my post about our upcoming travel for 2015 that I’m heading to Berlin in April to attend and help with The Hive Conference. I haven’t been back in a few years (here’s a post about my time there in 2012!), but I’ve been sending out their newsletters for the last year and a half, so I’m very up to date!

The Hive is a conference for digital influencers – Instagrammers, YouTubers, bloggers and online personalities. I’m so excited about the speaker lineup this year – Chelsea Fuss of Frolic and Natalie Holbrook of Hey Natalie Jean are among them. The world of blogging and social media has changed so much in the last few years, and will continue to so rapidly, and I’m excited to have some conversations about what that might look like.

Of course, I also love The Hive because I met my friends Anne and Ashley, whom I traveled with last week to Amsterdam! I have so appreciated their friendship and advice over the last few years as we all navigate these freelance creative careers we’ve built. I’ll be sharing more about our trip to Amsterdam tomorrow!

I’ve been given a special code for €40 off the ticket price for any Irish blogger who wants to go over for the conference. Just send an email to emily@fromchinavillage.com if you’d like to know more! My flights were very cheap and Berlin is such a fun city. Plus, we could hang out for the weekend!

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All About Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day

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St. Patrick’s Day puts a little extra pressure on me every year. Here I am in Dublin, the epicenter of everything Paddy’s Day, so I feel like I should tell you all the things about Ireland for this holiday. Then again, I talk about Ireland and Dublin and all things Irish all day long, so I thought this year I’d just direct you to a few of those things in case you feel like reading and learning and daydreaming about Ireland while you eat your green pancakes and drink your shamrock shakes. Fair? Fair.

First, tomorrow I’m taking over the Conde Nast Traveler Instagram (!) for the day, to share a little about what Ireland’s really like. You can find me on Instagram @emilyholmes, and Conde Nast Traveler on Instagram @cntraveler.

Are you on Instagram? It’s such a weird and wonderful little world that I both love and am baffled by most of the time. I love capturing the sweet or impatctful moments and sharing them on Instagram, but if I think too long about how weird it is that around the world, we’re all arranging the perfect photos and cropping them and editing them, then crafting the most perfect caption, it’s just too strange. But man, it’s so fun to see my friends and family, nieces and nephews around the world. It makes Ireland seem a little less far away!

Second, in other Irish news, last week I wrote a story for Conde Nast Traveler about what you shouldn’t do in Dublin when you visit – it’s packed with great alternatives to the overrated touristy spots in the city. And the I wrote another story about ten most authentic pubs you should try in Dublin. Or how about ten free things to do in Dublin?

Finally, if you click on the Dublin option in the menu bar, you’ll get an archive of everything I’ve ever written about Dublin. And that will surely keep you going for a while!

Do you have fun plans for St. Patrick’s Day? We’re planning to sleep late, eat some brunch, and hopefully go for a hike before a little afternoon stop in our local pub. A quiet celebration away from the mayhem. If you’re looking for something to do in the city, I’m hearing great things about Paddy’s Day Unlocked in Meetinghouse Square in Temple Bar. I love what people in our city are doing to change stereotypes!

And one last thing. Don’t forget, it’s Paddy’s Day, not Patty’s Day!

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Happy Friday!

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Happy Friday, everyone! Did you have a nice week? I started the week in Amsterdam and ended it in Dublin. Sometimes sentences like that are still so strange to write, and I don’t take for granted how incredibly fortunate I am to travel around Europe while we’re in Ireland. The novelty just doesn’t wear off, no matter how long the line at passport control is!

Today I got to spend a few hours with my niece, one of the highlights of my week every week. We usually bake something, or rather I bake something while she bangs on pots and pans with wooden spoons. We take walks and look at birds and dogs, and one of us finally gets to shut out the busy world, both online and in person. It’s such a treat just to be Auntie Em (I have no illusions Emily is too many syllables for little ones, so I made it simple!).

This weekend involves a little recharging before another busy week next week. The evenings are getting longer, so I hope we’ll make it outside for big gulps of fresh air. What do you have planned for the weekend? I hope it’s full of adventure. See you Monday!

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Dublin Flower Shop / The Garden

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Because it’s Mother’s Day in Ireland on Sunday, I thought it would be a good excuse to have a peek at another Dublin flower shop today! We visited Appassionata and Les Fleurs before Valentine’s Day, and today we’re going to take a peek at The Garden in Cow’s Lane, down in the Temple Bar neighborhood.

In case you’re in need of a little gift for your mom or mom-in-law or grandma, or if you’re strolling through the neighborhood and need a good dose of pretty, here’s another beautiful shop to check out!  the_garden_sign_temple_bar The Garden in Cow’s Lane is the second shop opened by floral designer and landscaper Mark Grehan. His first shop is in the Powerscourt Centre on South William Street in the entryway to the old mansion. You’ll easily spot it because the plants and flowers spill down the grand steps of the Powerscourt!

The Cow’s Lane shop opened a few months ago and it’s a welcome addition to the street. On Saturdays, there’s a craft market with stalls that fill up the little pedestrian street, and on the other days you can visit The Garden as well as the Gutter Bookshop, Queen of Tarts cafe, and Thunder Solas, a little leather shop. Technically, you could also get a tattoo, since there’s a cool-looking tattoo shop on the street too, but that might not be up everyone’s alley!

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Little shop dog Ray (or Rea? I forgot to check the spelling of her name!) was on duty to greet everyone on Saturday morning. She was also on hand to paw at the moss in the window, but I think the former was a much better use of her talents!  puppy_the_garden_dublin the_garden_dublin

I love the way flower shops make their whole area brighter and more cheerful, not just inside. The displays spread out onto the sidewalk, beckoning you inside.  the_garden_flowers_dublin flowers_dublin_the_garden

I think Sorcha, who was busy making bouquets inside, might have thought I was a little loopy when I got nearly lost it at the smell of lilac. It’s a sure sign of spring and I might have gotten a little over excited about it!  cows_lane_dublin_flower_shop the_garden_dublin_flowers

Inside, I love the partial charcoal wall. Reminds me of my own hallway! The partial white wall makes the small space feel brighter and larger, and the charcoal is a great backdrop to make the flowers stand out. I also think that eucalyptus/industrial bulb chandelier would be really fun to recreate!  the_garden_dublin_cows_lane the_garden_dublin_cows_lane_temple_bar

Feathery tulips are amazing, aren’t they? Having just been in Amsterdam, I’m on a total tulip kick. I might have to stock up this weekend!  the_garden_cows_lane_dublin flower_shop_dublin_ireland

If you’re only visiting Dublin, The Garden has a lot of little bits that would make good souvenirs – soap from the Irish Handmade Soap Company, candles, shears, mugs and trowels. Useful souvenirs, which are always a hit with me!  anemones_dublin_the_garden flower_shop_dublin_the_garden_cows_lane

You can also follow Mark’s creations from The Garden via Instagram!

The Garden / Cow’s Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Posted in Dublin, Exploring Ireland | 1 Comment

A Golden Moment

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While I recover from all that walking and talking around Amsterdam, I wanted to share some golden hour photos from Howth last week. Two days last week we managed to get outside and into the fresh air and we happen to catch Howth in some dramatic light – stormy skies mixed with blindingly bright sunshine. It was magical.  howth_pier_ireland howth_pier_dublin_ireland

I’ve been trying to carry my non-phone camera with me a little more regularly, for moments just like this one. howth_fishing_village_pier howth_fishing_village_ireland howth_dublin_ireland

And I’ve been trying to focus on different angles and details and action, trying to push myself a little to improve my photography and composition. fishing_village_ireland_howth fishing_boat_howth_pier I hope you’re all having a wonderful week! I’ll be back tomorrow with some flowery goodness ahead of Irish Mother’s Day this weekend!

 

Posted in Dublin, Exploring Ireland, Uncategorized | 3 Comments