Mon 15 Aug 2016
Today, Mountaineering Man and I will board a plane for our one-way journey to America, capping off two weeks of leaving parties and farewell drinks and goodbye hugs and well wishes.
To say Ireland has been good to me would be an understatement. I came here six-and-a-half years ago from Los Angeles, where I had a close-knit group of friends, my family within driving distance to my condo and a job that had me interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. But there was a growing sense of loneliness that I just couldn’t shake, leaving me feeling disillusioned and weary.
Perhaps it was a long-ago heartbreak that never really healed, or one too many flaky “let’s have lunch” invitations that never materialized or the hours upon hours I – like most people in this traffic-clogged city – spent in my car. LA was wearing me down, and no matter how many dinner parties or new hairstyles or glasses of Pinot Grigio I had, nothing changed, not really. And I was desperate for change – something, anything. I reasoned that moving to a new country would be such a massive shift in my reality that it would effectively force change in every other aspect of my life. It had to.
Wed 10 Aug 2016
Last Saturday, Mountaineering Man and I had our usual almond croissants from Morgan, the French Baker, and flat whites from Revolution Bakery at St. Anne’s Park. Afterward, we stopped by the Organic Delights veg stall and got a few things – spinach, courgettes, onions and potatoes. Normally I would’ve gotten some flowers at the florist’s stand, but all of our vases were already packed.
This has been our routine every Saturday morning for at least the last few years now, and though I’m sure there are farmers’ markets where we’re going, Morgan (bread/croissants) and Denis (veg) won’t be there. It’s going to take some getting used to.
There are so many places that we frequent in Dublin and beyond that we will miss. So in the interest of passing on the scoop on some great places, here’s a list of our favourites. I hope you’ll check them out, if you haven’t already.
Clontarf Wines: Ronnie & Helena are passionate about wine and we love popping into their shop to talk about (and taste!) their most recent discoveries. There’s no snobbery here, so even if you know nothing about wine you’ll feel welcome. The shop sells nice nibbles too, like charcuterie and cheese, so you can pick up a lovely little spread of treats and vino for an evening when you’re too tired to cook. We often do.
Sun 7 Aug 2016
I spent this afternoon at my friend Sinead Roche’s house out in Broomfield, Collon with the people who are my first Irish family.
You see, Sinead is the reason why I’m here. Way back when I was a university student in San Francisco, I rented a room in a big kip of a house, and Sinead and her then-boyfriend Keith rented the room down the hall. We became fast friends. Sinead and I spent many Saturday nights drinking white zinfandel from a box and chain-smoking Marlborough Lights, watching cheesy TV shows and being carefree early 20-somethings.
She taught me about good tea, Guinness and the beauty of the humble potato; I still laugh when I think about Sinead, sitting with her head over a plate of steaming spuds covered in butter and Bisto and eating them so fast she’d huff and puff just so she could avoid burning her mouth. “Nothing better than a good plate of spuds!” she’d say, with utter satisfaction, after eating the equivalent of probably 4-5 boiled potatoes.
Wed 3 Aug 2016
I’m from Los Angeles – land of gyms (and plastic surgeons). The last gym where I worked out before relocating to Ireland had mini refrigerators filled with iced face towels, so people could cool themselves off after a tough workout. Very LA.
Gyms in Ireland are slightly different, to say the least. Most are no-frills, though many are priced even higher than my aforementioned LA place. I tried a few and found very little inspiration; one place had machines so old they barely worked, another had personal trainers who knew little about customized training and worked off the same standard program for every client.
Fri 29 Jul 2016
This one is going to hurt.
Today is my last day in the office at Kellogg’s European Headquarters in Dublin, and if I can get through it without tears it will be a miracle.
My expectations when I first joined Kellogg’s in July 2013 were purely professional. I hoped to apply what I’d learned in my previous roles to help grow the company’s digital marketing capabilities, further develop my knowledge of European business and gain an understanding of FMCGs (that’s Fast Moving Consumer Goods for the uninitiated, which I was at the time). In a nutshell, do a good job and not make a fool out of the guy who hired me. If I made a few friends and acquaintances along the way, well, that would just be icing on the cake.
So it’s a wonderful and heartbreaking thing to say that I’ll be leaving behind some very special people today, who in a relatively short period of time have become life-long friends.
It’s no wonder when someone leaves Kellogg’s, they always talk about how much they’ll miss the people. The culture of the company is truly special, and my colleagues genuinely respect and support one another – even when under intense pressure. The emphasis on assuming positive intent, building relationships and nurturing trust has greatly influenced the way I approach work…and life.
Wed 27 Jul 2016
The reason I first came to Ireland was the Art Tea at the Merrion Hotel. I was working as a food and travel journalist and I’d come to Dublin to spend a couple of days with the pastry chef and his kitchen staff to learn all about the fabulous afternoon tea they were doing.
Yes, I realise how lucky I am. If everyone’s first Irish destination was the Merrion, they’d never leave!
And though I did leave, I came back less than a year later and ended up calling Ireland my home for the next six-and-a-half years. It’s funny how many connections to this Art Tea I’ve developed in that time; it’s true what they say, Ireland is a small country! Paul Kelly, the Executive Pastry Chef at the Merrion, now co-hosts the Great Irish Bake-Off with my fellow blogger friend Lilly Higgins; it also turns out that Paul grew up in Wexford – where my husband’s family is from. My father-in-law has some funny memories of Paul as a kid, riding his bicycle in daredevil style down their old road.
So I thought it would be fun to revisit the Art Tea (something I’ve done a few times since moving here) with my sister-in-law Nessa and my niece Aoibheann. My mother-in-law, Elva, would have loved this as she was a huge fan of a fabulous afternoon tea; sadly she passed away nearly three years ago. Even more reason to go with the girls in the family for proper tea – the first for my little 4-year-old niece – and start a new tradition together. These rituals will be all the more important with an ocean between us, so I hope this will be a place we visit together whenever I am back in Dublin.
Mon 27 Apr 2015
San Francisco, 1999.
I was in a major pickle.
I’d spent the night at a friend’s flat after too much wine. She had to go to work early, but told me I could sleep in and let myself out as the front door would lock behind me. That’s what good friends do.
I woke up a couple of hours after she’d gone, made sure I had my handbag and jacket and walked out of the flat. I heard the tell-tale “click” of the lock as I firmly pulled the door closed behind me. I walked about 10 steps and turned the handle of the front gate. It was locked, and the only way to open it was with a key – which was nowhere to be found.
Surely the key must be around here somewhere, I reasoned. I checked under the two potted plants, a discarded paper bag and some decorative rocks that lined the walkway. Nothing. I peered into the window of the neighbouring flat, but it was uninhabited; there was nothing but trash on the floor and it looked as if no one had lived there for months. To make things worse, my mobile phone battery was dead, since I hadn’t planned to spend the night and therefore didn’t have my charger with me.
I know what you’re thinking. A gate? Why not simply climb over it? Like many flats in San Francisco, this one had a gate about 15 feet high with spikes on top [similar to the one in this pic on the right]. It was made of wrought iron and had vertical bars, just like a jail cell door (cue irony). With no vertical bars to put my feet on, scaling it meant I’d have to pull my full body weight up by my arms. My upper body strength – or lack thereof – simply couldn’t cut it. The saddest (or most hilarious, depending on the POV) part was that people walking by could see me trying to wriggle my way up this thing. One guy even stopped and tried to help, but upon realising the severity of heroism required, shrugged his shoulders with a muffled “sorry” before strolling off.
Sun 1 Feb 2015
In a few short days, I’ll be meeting my best friend from back home in New York City for a long weekend. It’s been over six years since we’ve had time by ourselves face-to-face, mainly due to this hectic day-to-day thing called life and the literal ocean that sits between us.
As an expat, you learn to live without your family and friends as that’s just part of the deal. When I was preparing to move from Los Angeles to Ireland five years ago, all of my friends promised they’d visit. “Finally we have a reason to go to Ireland!” they’d say, earnestly. Five years later, only one (the aforementioned best friend) has actually followed through.
I’m not bitter about the lack of visitors. Let’s face it: it’s a huge ask, especially for my friends back home who get about 10 paid vacation days a year. Throw in kids, the expense of overseas travel and the not-so-amazing weather around here and you can’t blame them for spending their precious holidays in other locales. If the tables were turned, I’d probably do the same.