Another Nursery Nook Look

March 11, 2016

maya-nursery-quilt Maya’s nursery is slowly coming together. We started with an empty room and a five day old baby back in October, so the fact that there’s art on the walls and it’s feeling more cosy is an achievement! We’ve come a long way from the early days of just a pull out couch and a bassinet! (Truth be told, we’re not in a position to collect very much anyway, considering we’re heading back to Dublin and we can’t take it all with us! Although I may try…)

Yesterday while Maya was napping, I hung two new things over her crib. First, a mobile my mom whipped up while I was back in Maine a few weeks ago, with the stuffing help of my friend Becky’s kids – Lola and Dexter. We thought fish might be cute, and my mom had leftover fabric from making Maya’s quilt. She sewed, then we stuffed! But seriously, she also made the quilt. And the bunny (see below)! And the bunny has bloomers! When I got back to Houston, I assembled the mobile and very quietly tapped a nail into the wall to hang it while Maya napped. maya-nursery-bunny The other fun thing I hung with the mobile is a little heart-shaped plaque that I ordered from an Irish Etsy seller, The Mood Designs. About a month ago, Etsy Ireland reached out and asked if I’d like to do a little shopping in return to sharing what I find online with my readers. I was so excited to find a new-to-me shop with just the perfect something special for Maya’s nursery.

One thing I’ve just learned about the Etsy site is that you can search by where things are made, which is really fun and especially useful if you’re looking for something made in Ireland, for example. There’s a little box you can tick on the left hand menu that will filter by location after you’ve searched. I just chose a category, I think ‘baby’, and then filtered for all handmade things made in Ireland.   maya-nursery-crib I have to admit, I almost had the plaque inscribed with the day we met Maya instead of her birthday, because to us that’s when it feels like she was born. It just feels like there’s no way she could have existed before we knew her! But I went with her real birth date instead. We’ll probably just celebrate both days forever and ever!  maya-nursery-mobile I’m hoping the last little details of her nursery will come together next week while Michael is on spring break from school. We’re going to grab a shelf from Ikea this weekend and I’m going to run to Staples to have a color engineer print made – for $7! Once those are hung, the only thing that’s still on the list is a rug to cover those bare polished concrete floors. I do love them, and they hide all manner of dirt, but when Maya starts crawling I want something cosier under her knees and hands. Right now, we just bring her into the living room to play on a blanket on our living room rug, but another space for her to play in our tiny apartment would be much appreciated.

Thanks to Etsy Ireland for letting me do a little guilt-free shopping and continue my Etsy appreciation!

Dublin Daydreams / Spots I’m Missing

March 7, 2016

IMG_7044

This post is sponsored by Stay.com, All opinions are my own. A year ago I put together a little itinerary on Stay.com showcasing Dublin for first-timers and it’s a great place to start your Dublin daydreams. You can download the Stay.com city guide app right here. 

Sometimes I let myself have a little daydream about our normal days back in Dublin – our favorite restaurants and coffee spots, the place we’d sit in the car and look out at the sea and the city and talk about our dream of moving to Houston and adopting a baby. Just a year ago, Michael and I were busting our buns to buy our house there so we’d have a home to come back to, and packing up our little apartment and storing everything away so we could take our big leap to Houston. So much has happened in a year, so many prayers answered and dreams made reality. Gosh, we are thankful.

It would be an understatement to say that it’s really fun to now be able to think about the Dublin spots we’ll get to introduce Maya to for the first time. I can’t wait to see her face when we take her to see the ocean or when she’s running around the beach chasing seagulls. And of course, even though Maya won’t care so much about some of my less kid-friendly spots yet, I’ve been thinking about how much fun it will be to return to those as well.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, spots I’ve been daydreaming about lately.

IMG_7048

Howth

We spent so much time in and around Howth that it’s easily the place I’m most excited to show Maya and most excited to get back to. I’m excited for Howth hikes and the smell of gorse and the view of the sea. And for grabbing coffee with Michael strolling along the pier – this time with a stroller! We’re going to have to bundle our little Texan burrito against the wind. She’s going to be shocked! (All about Howth here, here and here.)

Coffee

Speaking of coffee, oh, we miss Irish coffee. Not the alcoholic kind, although those are better in Dublin too. We have four coffee shops within a 6 block radius of our place in Houston, one is terrible, but three of the four we frequent often enough (one Michael goes to so often they give him free coffee nearly every time!). But we really miss Irish milk, which makes a cappuccino taste like dessert in Ireland. (I wrote about a few of my favorites Dublin coffee spots you can check out here.)

Restaurants

I am going to seriously miss Mexican food when we return to Dublin – cilantro is $.38 a bunch at the grocery store here and way more flavorful than any I’ve had before. Not to mention $2 taco Tuesdays which has become a fun little treat each week. But aside from Mexican food I’m excited to get back to some of our favorite Dublin restaurants – the Winding Stair, Brother Hubbard, The Black Sheep, Etto and the Pig’s Ear. And a few spots have opened since we left and we’re very excited to try them when we return.

IMG_6891

Cosy Pubs

Our new house isn’t in walking distance to our old local pub, a fact Michael laments just about every time we talk about going home. But we’re excited to be able to leave Maya with her grandparents and go out for a drink every so often! Our babysitting options here have been limited, so we’ll have to make up for a little lost time! (I wrote about how to blend in at the pub here.)

stephens-green

Busy Streets and Pretty Parks

I don’t think I ever really imagined I’d count Dublin’s busy streets as something I miss, but I miss the buzz of the city centre, especially on a sunny day. Of course, strolling through Stephen’s Green or Merrion Square is more peaceful but usually equally buzzy.

Museums

I definitely miss Dublin’s free museums, popping in and out of them whenever I had a free half hour. I’m hoping we’ll catch my favorite time at the Royal Hibernian Academy this summer – their annual exhibit of Irish artists with the walls packed with paintings, photography and drawings. My itinerary on Stay.com includes a bunch of my favorite museums.

irish-design-shop

Favorite Shops

I didn’t realize when we left Dublin how much I’d miss popping into my favorite shops every few weeks, chatting with the owners and seeing what was new on the shelves. Luckily Maya is a patient little lady, because we’ll have a few rounds to make, from the Irish Design Shop to Article and Dust. (A few more scoops from those shops here and here.)

Just looking through my photos for images to accompany this post made me a little more homesick than I’d like to be! We won’t be back soon enough that I can start counting the days, but having a little daydream every so often definitely helps.

For more spots to visit on your first time visiting Dublin, have a peek at Stay.com and download their city guide app. They have a selection of itineraries curated by Dublin locals on various topics and interest. Thanks for supporting the companies that help support From China Village! 

Happy Weekend!

March 5, 2016

houston-spring-flowers

Happy weekend, everyone! How are you? Our week was uneventful in the best possible way. Maya napped like a champ and even managed to sleep through the night a few nights, too. She still seems to wake herself up around 5:30am but we’re hoping that eases forward an hour in the near future. Michael is away this weekend visiting his brothers, so Maya and I are on our own for the first time in Houston. So weird! We’re going to do a lot of what we usually do. Nap, eat, play, repeat. The weather warm and breezy so we’ll continue some of our bottles al fresco! Maya loves looking up at the bamboo trees swaying against the blue sky next to our patio.

Do you have any exciting plans for the weekend? I can’t believe Dublin got snow this week! And I’m so glad to be getting a few months’ reprieve in the winter department. It’s not really in the top 100 things I miss about Dublin or Maine. February and March have been my favorite weather months in Houston. I fully appreciate the lack of humidity most days!

The rhododendrons are blooming here in Houston (the photo above snapped on a neighborhood run last week), which reminds me of Dublin’s June rhododendron blossoms at Deer Park. It’s worth marking your calendar in advance!

Really cool wire house numbers – for when we finally get to return to that house in Dublin that we own!

Make your own edible birthday candles. Clever!

An app for choosing your baby’s name. It has swiping like Tinder, ha!

Great family habits for eating less sugar. I’m on day 5 of a month-long  (or longer?) no-sugar kick and I’m currently eating way more real foods than I had been.

While Michael’s away this weekend, so I’m going to catch up on House of Cards and maybe start the new season.

This looks like a very affordable and relatively simple DIY marble accent table.

Happy weekending, team! I hope yours is lovely!

Multiple Mother’s Days

March 4, 2016

mothers-day-ireland Did you know Ireland and America have two different Mother’s Days? It’s not something terribly interesting or noteworthy unless you’re an expat. For a few years, I thought it was quite convenient – we celebrate my mother-in-law on Irish Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday, as it’s called), which is coming up this Sunday, and my own mother on American Mother’s Day later in the spring. I don’t think I’ve actually gotten to be with my own mom on Mother’s Day since I moved to Ireland, which is crummy, but we could celebrate her from afar, which is still nice.

But do you know when two mother’s days became really annoying? When I wanted to become a mother, but I wasn’t any closer to becoming a mother. For about five years. Which is a total of ten mother’s days. Ugh.

(And while we’re throwing parental trivia around, Father’s Day? Same in Ireland as in America. Grrrr. How is that fair?)

I’ve started a kind of lengthy post about our (ongoing) infertility journey but it’s still not ready to see the light of day, so here is a small instalment. When you’re trying to get pregnant and not having any luck, days like mother’s day and father’s day are particularly hard. Not because I don’t love celebrating my mother, because she deserves lots and lots of celebrating – especially for that extra level of mothering that she manages to provide when her over-thirty-year-old daughter calls from across the ocean in puddles of tears over something relatively un-fixable that has reduced her to puddles of tears occasionally for years. (Luckily, I manage not to do this on actual mother’s day – gotta give the lady a break!)

But mother’s days are hard because they are the days that it’s nearly impossible to avoid wondering whether you’ll ever get to join the club that gets to be celebrated on mother’s day. There’s so much mystery to infertility, so many questions about why it affects who it affects, and simply nothing that can give a guarantee you’ll ever make it into the club. It affects so many people, but then again it doesn’t affect other people. It’s such a strange one! And there’s no guarantee all the doctors in the world could figure out how to make you pregnant if you aren’t. In some cases, they can, and in some cases they can’t. The internet is awash in stories of success stories and stories that don’t end so happily. Why it happens, to nice people who would be nice parents, is a mystery. And a crummy one at that.

Even now that I am a mother, I don’t feel very excited about celebrating mother’s day. That’s not to say I’m not excited about being a mother. That excitement has not and will not ever wear off. But the thought of mother’s day still makes me feel uncomfortable. It still has so many memories of wondering and worrying attached to it, so many feelings of wanting so badly to be in a club I couldn’t figure out how to get in. I hated that feeling and a sliver of it is still lingering. I also hate knowing that I have friends and family who will still have that achey feeling on Sunday.

I wish I had some kind of suggestion as to how to make it better on those especially crummy days, but I’m not sure I do. For me, at least, having to talk about how painful it was to not know if I’d ever be a mother on mother’s day was somehow worse. Michael always made a point of giving me an extra big squeeze and reassuring me that he knew I’d be a great mother one day, and that extra love and acknowledgement did help a little. But mostly, it was always one of those days I just plastered a smile on my face (sometimes more successfully than others – I’m not always good at pretending!), avoided Facebook and Instagram, and tried not to have a major meltdown in front of too big an audience.

Great strategy, huh?

One thing Michael and I did realize after a few years was that it was kind of nice to have a few people we could talk to about how crummy a mystery infertility is. To joke and laugh and sometimes cry about how absurd and isolating and lonely it can be outside that club looking in. It was also helpful to know that we weren’t the only ones in the same boat, although it was never fun to learn that someone was having the same struggle we were. At least we weren’t the only ones avoiding Instagram on mother’s day and trying not to snark at someone when they joked about putting their misbehaving child up for adoption (I kid you not). But while our instinct was to shut out the world and never talk about it, having a few people we could vent to on Whatsapp or over a glass of wine was actually therapeutic.

All that to say I remember how it feels, how hard those days are, how hard Sunday might be for some of you. If you’re in the middle of it, you’re not the only one. If you want to send me a big old rant about how crummy it is, I am all ears and empathy. And I’m giving you a big, virtual extra hug and wishing and praying that you won’t have to feel that way for much longer.

Happy Weekend!

February 26, 2016

maya-walking

Happy Friday! How are ya? It is freaking sunny and beautiful here in Houston, so there has been a fair amount of nap-time work going on out in the back patio soaking up vitamin D. Thank goodness Maya remembered how to nap this week – AND even slept through the night last night! The current magic napping tricks seem to be shorter wake time, the return of the swaddle, and absolute darkness. Long may they work! I haven’t a clue what magical combination of tricks made for that long stretch of sleep last night, but we’re going to try very hard to recreate it tonight. And for the moment, my productivity has improved greatly. I even made dinner most nights. Including this very delicious soup (although I added a sweet potato) with our latest farm share booty. I didn’t even know I liked turnips, but in this soup I’m absolutely a fan.

Michael and I have a few low key plans for the weekend – while hanging on tightly to Maya’s new and improved nap schedule! Tonight involves one strong but early margarita for me. We have a favorite Mexican restaurant (they make their own tortillas and they’re really delicious) about six blocks away so it makes for the perfect stroll. Tomorrow, on the recommendations of a friend, we’re going to check out the McGovern Centennial Garden in Hermann Park while eating bagels from the Hot Bagel Shop. We don’t eat bagels very often, but I’ve gotten it in my head that a bagel is exactly what I want at the moment.

I seem to have collected quite a parent-oriented list of links this week. Apologies, but I suppose you can see how far down the rabbit hole I really am.

I’ll be back next week with a little tour of our neighborhood and a few other fun tidbits.

5 ways Cheerios can save long flights with kids.

The beauty of waking before children. One day, maybe, one day.

A redesign of the Bible that sounds fascinating.

One very comical play by play of a American guy losing his phone, following it to China, becoming a Chinese Twitter celebrity and making friends with the man who ended up with his phone.

The things we need to stop saying about dads.

Maya is loving her made-in-Maine teething ring.

Etsy Shopping in Ireland / The Mood Designs Pottery

February 26, 2016

DSC07802 I’ve been doing a little Etsy browsing lately and discovered The Mood Designs pottery studio in Castlebar, County Mayo. Ella and Lukas moved to Ireland from Poland and created a pottery studio out of their old horse’s stable (and relocated her!). They make these beautiful dishes and mugs inspired by the Irish landscape. And they are very, very pretty. I ordered a decoration for Maya’s nursery and I look forward to showing it to you soon!  DSC04412 DSC04420 DSC07425 DSC07895

The Mood Designs / Castlebar, Co. Mayo / Etsy Shop

Styled in Ireland / Exercising in Dublin

February 22, 2016

styled-in-ireland-exercise-title Before we left Dublin for Houston (all explained here if you’re just catching up) last summer, I put together a bunch of Styled in Ireland posts that would allow readers planning their Dublin visits to continue to learn while I was away. And then Maya arrived and changed the whole game on me! (All that explained here, in case you missed that news flash!) But I’m trying to get back on track, back to my computer, back to FCV, so Styled in Ireland posts are resuming once again! This time, what to wear and where to go to exercise on your trip to Dublin.

Since it’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Styled in Ireland post, I’ll give you a reminder on the point of them all! I like to show both locals and visitors what I wear for a certain occasion or event, and give tips for the best spots to do those things. I’ve covered things like afternoon tea, rugby matches, nights out, Dublin airport and a Saturday farmer’s market – among many more! If you’re planning a trip to Dublin and aren’t sure what to pack or how to dress, start with the Styled in Ireland category.

With all that out of the way, let’s get down to stylish business. For this episode of Styled in Ireland, I’m tackling what to wear and where to go for a workout in Dublin. When I’m traveling, I like to know ahead of time where I might be able to get a quick run or jump rope in. Some days the amount of walking around a new city certainly constitutes enough exercise, but vacation usually means extra indulgence for me and a quick run makes me feel better about eating croissants and chocolate at every meal which seems to inevitably happen whenever I’m on vacation!  how-to-exercise-on-vacation-ireland This is almost the exact spot I went for a run on the first morning I arrived in Ireland more than seven years ago. The Clontarf running/cycling path that runs from Clontarf north to Sutton. I also used to roller blade up and down this path in the summers! I’m not sure how I was brave enough for that, the last time I went out I totally bit it and haven’t been back up since. It’s a little bumpy for my novice roller blading skills, but it’s perfect for cycling, running or walking.

A few tips. If you’re cycling, make sure to stay on the left like you would in a car in Ireland. And if you’re walking or running, make sure you’re not walking or running on the part designated for cycling (there are usually painted bicycles on this part). That’s really scary if you’re a cyclist because you’re never sure which way to go around the runners. And it could be really scary for a runner to get run over by a cyclist. Just saying.  where-to-exercise-dublin-vacation That’s not technically the running path, but it’s fun to walk up on the ledge! It’s not so high up.  dublin-running-trails-2 Other places that are good for exercising in Dublin when you’re visiting?

– I’ve mentioned before that I like to bring a jump rope when I travel so I can just post up in a parking lot and get a quick workout in at any time of day.

– Beaches! Sandymount strand on the south side is another nice spot for a jog or walk, or Dollymount strand on the north side. This running path takes you to a wooden bridge that leads out to Dollymount strand. If you continue up to the end of the path, it’s about five miles. If you’re training for a marathon or something nutty like that, you could also run up and around Howth. When my knees used to allow for occasional ten mile runs, I used to do that and the hills are killer! But the view on the descent into the village is amazing.

– Yoga classes. So many yoga studios offer single class passes or a drop-in fee, so you can just pop in at your leisure. MyWellbeing.ie is very central, has a €10 drop in fee and gets good reviews.

– Spinning classes! Andy Kenny Fitness is also very central and has €4 drop in classes for you.

– City parks are a great spot for running (although Stephen’s Green can get very busy and would be more like an obstacle course sometimes!), especially if you’re worried about getting lost or venturing into places on your own.

– And of course, walking all around the city.  where-to-exercise-in-dublin where-to-run-in-dublin What about gear to bring? I have a few suggestions as a veteran runner/cyclist/walker here in this somewhat soggy place.

– Something reflective. My sister and brother-in-law gave me this Gap pullover that has reflect-y bits that are good for running after (or before!) dark. If I’m running in the dark, I often add a reflective arm band as well. My dad always gets worried when I say I’ve been out running in the dark, but it’s incredibly common in Ireland. Just make sure you’re aware of cars when you cross roads and otherwise stay on the sidewalk. There are street lights everywhere, so you’re never in total darkness.

– Something waterproof. I have a light shell I can wear over my running gear so I don’t get totally soaked.

– Warm layers. I can’t remember when we shot these photos, but it was possibly May? It might have even been June! And I was freezing. If I had been actually running I would have been fine, but walking I might have needed a warmer layer. For spring and fall, pack a light pair of gloves and a headband. For winter, the thermal leggings! But one of the things I love about Dublin is that you can get outside to run or walk year round. You just vary the level of bundling!

– Your phone with Google Maps loaded up. Even if I don’t have wifi, I find that if I load up the map on my phone before I go out, I can see where I am with that blinky blue dot. Always a help when you zone out and forget to pay attention to where you’ve turned!

– Know that it will be annoyingly windy in one direction (or sometimes both!) 99% of the time. I tell myself it’s like resistance training so I don’t get too frustrated!  styled-in-ireland-exercise clontarf-running-path-dublin

And of course, the best part about getting out for a jog in Dublin is that you get to see more than you could on a walk! I miss being so close to the sea and having those beautiful views every day. If you’re headed to Dublin soon, soak up some of that Irish air for me!

And don’t forget to check out the rest of my Styled in Ireland posts for what to pack or just a little style inspiration!

Sneakers: Saucony  / Top: Gap / Leggings: H&M / Mint tank: H&M / Watch: Gap / Photography: Naomi Phillips 

Happy (Sleep-deprived) Friday!

February 19, 2016

misty-copeland-degas

(Misty Copeland re-enacting a series of famous Degas paintings of ballet dancers. Love those blues and greens!)

Happy Friday, friends! Long time no talk! We’re tired over here. Ha! Thank goodness it’s Friday and we don’t have a single place we need to be this weekend. Maya and I spent last week with my parents up in Maine and little lady didn’t leave the house for four days straight while it was so cold! I do not miss 16 below zero nights at all. But she had her grandparents to keep her company while she was cooped up indoors and my dad and I finished up the last round of edits on our Dublin-based mystery novel, Dead Samaritan. It’s off to our agent on Monday!

In Maya news, she rolled front to back for the first time last week! And she’s talking up a storm and trying lots of new sounds and squeaks. But I think all that excitement and growth is messing with her naps. I’ve spent more time googling “how to get a 4.5 month old to nap more than 45 minutes” than I ever imagined I would. She mastered falling asleep on her own a month or so ago, but she wakes up like clockwork after 45 minutes, usually happy as a clam, and proceeds to talk to herself (or the ceiling fan) for so long. I could go on about all the possible variables and schedule questions, but I know that’s exceptionally boring and I think the only one we’d put to sleep is you! Here’s hoping a quiet weekend at home nets her a few longer naps. For her sake, yes, but also for mine! (And I’m taking all baby nap tips from any veterans!)

Houston has turned warm again so we’re going to take advantage of the lovely weather and hopefully find a park to enjoy. Do you have any nice plans for the weekend?

Before I go, a few fun spots around the internet for your general enjoyment!

Kiddle! The new kid-safe search engine from Google.

Misty Copeland as Degas’ famous ballet paintings. Did you know she only started ballet at the age of 13? Incredible!

Great tips for booking last-minute accommodation in Ireland (that makes me homesick!).

Have I mentioned you should follow the Bangor (Maine) Police Department on Facebook? I’m not one for following much on Facebook but they are hilarious and compassionate.

And while we’re social media-ing, try Daily Overview on Instagram for really cool satellite images or the New York City Ballet for a feed full of beautiful composite images.

Maya is now being sent off to sleep with this soft lovie bunny from Bitte that we got her for Christmas. We’ve been calling it Lovie (super original), but I’m trying to think of a better long term name. I imagine we’ll be talking about it for years to come! (Lovie bunny is sold out, but lovie black bear is also adorable!)

Here’s hoping your weekend is full of blissful sleep!

A Favorite Baby Book / On the Night You Were Born

February 10, 2016

baby books

I love that we can finally stock up on children’s books, even if some of them are far above Maya’s reading level or attention span yet. We’ve been gifted some really lovely books, though, including Counting Our Way to Maine and Blueberries for Sal. Yesterday, I opened One Morning in Maine to read to her and shut it shortly thereafter when I realized it was way too long for her attention span of three minutes.

But one of my favourites is called On the Night You Were BornMy professor and mentor from college and his amazing wife sent a stack of books when Maya was born and this one had me in puddles of tears when I read it the first time. I read it to Maya last night again and ended up in floods of tears. My brother gave us the companion baby book, The Wonder of You, for Christmas and that had me in tears, too.

on-the-night-you-were-born

It’s a really lovely book for any new baby, but it’s especially sweet for us because we weren’t able to be there on the night Maya was born. It will forever break my heart that we weren’t there for Maya’s first night or her first three days, but this book reminds me that she wasn’t alone. And forever she will know that she wasn’t and isn’t alone. It is the biggest tearjerker and I love it. One day I might be able to read it to her without crying.

night-you-were-born

Another book we love, that unfortunately you aren’t able to enjoy as well, is a little book my parents had made for Maya for Christmas. It’s called Maya Goes to Maine (which we are doing tomorrow!) and it’s approximately the sweetest little book about who lives in Maine and what Maya can do when she goes to visit my family there. It’s more seasonally appropriate for a February visit than Counting our Way to MaineThere’s snow in Maya Goes to Maine, which we will certainly be seeing when we visit tomorrow!

All about Interiors in the Irish Independent

February 8, 2016

Tip-1-DFS

I thought I’d give you a little update on my latest columns in the Irish Independent. I still write for them weekly and it has been so helpful in staying up to date with what my usual interiors people are doing back in our Irish home, which makes me a little less homesick for Dublin!

Since Christmas, I’ve written about how to put together the perfect bar cart, six ways to battle clutter in the new year, how to create a new bohemian look or a California cool vibe, and how to put start a great art collection.

If you’re in Ireland, you can pick up the paper on Saturdays to find my column, or you can wait for me to tell you about the links after the fact!