It’s good to be Home.

We flew into Dublin airport on a Thursday morning. Two weeks ago today. Rich spotted a Dublin bus from the air as we landed. We revelled at all the green fields and trees and grey drizzly sky. Though it was nothing compared to the torrential downpour we left behind in New York. A whistle stop tour in which we walked and ate and walked and ate and walked some more. In other words, the best kind of tour. I’ll post some photos if I ever find that roll of film we shot. 

Rich kept saying he wasn’t sure if he was ready. Was this ok? Were we right in coming home? [did we have a choice?] All good things must come to an end and I gave him a firm ‘yes.’  I had no doubt really. This is home. Nowhere else will ever be that. The streets, the people, the smells and sounds,  the familiar clouds in the sky—together they make up our home and my place in this world. The place I want my baby to know and love [keep reading, I’ll get there]. I feel comfortable, even though our situation is anything but right now. Precariously living back at home—and someone else’s home at that!—after year of independent bliss is challenging. To say the least of it. 

We came home with excess baggage in the form of five suitcases, one large cardboard box, a bicycle, helmet & skateboard, two backpacks and an unborn seventeen week old potential somebody. Surprised? Tell me about it!

We surprised my brother on his doorstep at 10 am. Tears sprung from his eyes upon seeing us. It was worth the lying and the butterflies. My niece hugged me with her chubby little arms spread wide and showed Rich everything in her bedroom, pointing and laughing. That was all the confirmation I could ever need. Our people are here and this is our place. 

One day soon I’ll write about all the things I learned and all the ways we grew. There will be time for photos and sharing and keeping track of what’s what. For now we are home and that is enough. 

I scribbled this out one day as a response to ‘show me love’ [an assignment for a poster making class]—it lived above our bed for a year; an often necessary and worthwhile reminder.

Five Packing Tips for a Year Away.

Are you thinking of taking advantage of the US graduate visa after college? Or perhaps you need a break before final year to refocus, get some experience and adventure? Whatever your reasons for wanderlust I hope that over this series of posts on the J1 Graduate Internship Visa I can shed some light on the application process, arrival tips, job hunting suggestions and a guide to general survival in this strange and wonderful foreign place. 

This is the third post in a series, here’s the first and second posts. 

Today let’s talk packing. Packing for a year away feels like the most overwhelming of tasks when you say it out loud. If you’re anything like me (a borderline hoarder/ephemera collector/vintage shopping junkie) then it might just be a pretty daunting task. I was given some pretty good tips before I left so I will try and relay them here for you. 

 Where are you going? This is important. Is the weather warm? Cold? Wet? Look at the actual weather information and don’t rely too heavily on anecdotal sources. People are forever talking about how cold and wet San Francisco is but so far it’s warmer than home and the entire of California is in a drought so not much rain. I think Irish people are pretty resilient when it comes to crappy weather but it’s always good to know what you will be faced with. In hindsight I brought too many coats and warm jumpers than I needed. 

Will you need interview clothes? This is a tricky one. I brought a pair of fancy shoes and one good dress for interviews. I have worn the dress once and the shoes zero times. I definitely could have done without both. Richard packed a suit and it has been worn zero times. I brought a pair of heels that are gathering dust. I can’t say much about New York or Boston or anywhere on the East Coast but as far as I know West is suuuper casual. Leave your heels at home. 

You’re not going on holidays. Save space and weight by not packing tons of socks, towels shampoo, conditioner, toiletries, razors, etc. If you’ve planned it right you should have some cash for these things when you land, use it. 

Contrary to the above point I think—in terms of clothes—that you should pack as if you are going on holidays. Bring stuff for whatever season you’ll be arriving in and a few pairs of shoes. Chances are you will want to go shopping in your new neighbourhood and it’s much easier to schlepp your stuff from hostel to apartment if there isn’t ten million tons of it. Unless it’s guaranteed to be roasting hot (bikini weather) or sub zero snow-magedden (puffa parka compulsory) leave the outliers behind. You can beg, borrow or thrift store scavenge for the rare occasions you’ll need something out of the ordinary. 

As long as you’ve got a bank card, your passport and visa, a clean pair of pants and a toothbrush you can survive anything. 


In terms of the practicalities of packing, use a big, light suitcase and a smaller carry-on sized case for the plane. Most airlines allow a personal item as well as a carry on and usually a small backpack is ok for this, make sure to double-check with your airline.

Roll, don’t fold. Stuff socks into shoes and scrunch your cables (as opposed to wrapping them) to keep them from tearing in the long run. It’s worth getting one of those hand-scales (or failing that, using your personal weighing scales) to make sure your bags are under-weight before travelling. A girl in the queue ahead of me at check-in was overweight and was not allowed pay the excess baggage. She had to open her bags and redistribute and remove stuff, which is the last thing you want to do the morning of your big adventure.

I had to pack up all of my belongings that I was leaving at home and put them into the attic before I left. This process took such a long time and was so exhausting that by the time I was actually packing the stuff to bring with me I kind of just fecked it all in. Being chilled out makes it much easier—if you forget something it’s really not the end of the world! 

Monthly Challenge #2

For our second monthly challenge Aoife and Gary tasked us with heading to Lolinda’s in The Mission for a drink on their rooftop bar as a New Years Eve celebration. It was booked out for NYE and a second attempt at visiting left us circling looking for parking and arguing before eventually giving up and driving home (not our finest hour)—so while this was December’s challenge it took until two weeks in to January before we actually completed it. 

After an epically long cycle through the city and around the presidio a group of us chanced our arms at getting in here despite our lycra-clad legs. Californians must be even more casual than I thought because neither the doorman nor the server batted an eyelid at our myriad of helmets, exercise clothes or backpacks. 

We ordered a pitcher of the cocktail recommended to us by the doorman (and an insanely expensive Old Fashioned for Ronnie which was delicious…but SF prices will be the breaking of us all) and I haven‘t a clue what it was…I think it had grapefruit in it? Maybe agave? Gin? I don’t know.

It was delicious once the initial shock of realising the crusty glass decoration was salt and not sugar had worn off. Thanks Aoife & Gary for the treats! 

Love Notes, #cliomakes

Sending messages to friends and family has been a huge comfort to me when I’m feeling a little homesick over here in California. I love sending parcels. As a child, I had a few pen pals and I remember being so exciting to both receive and send happy messages through the post. USPS is insanely expensive and at the moment (waiting on that first pay check is the worst!) its hard to justify the splurge but I just love the feeling of sending something through the post to someone I love. 

In a flurry of inspiration after James Victore’s CreativeLive workshop I made some hand lettered pieces, wrote some little love notes and sent them out to friends at home. The experience of making, writing and sending these was so therapeutic for me and seeing them pop up in my instagram feed a week or so later was such a treat. I’ll definitely be doing another round sometime soon.

Clockwise from top left, photos by  Claire ,  Joanna ,  Nicole  &  William . 

Clockwise from top left, photos by Claire, Joanna, Nicole & William

Do you ever send happy post? Isn’t it the best to get something that’s not a bill or junk through the letter box?  

For The Weekend (Happy Birthday Mama!)

Today is my mama’s birthday…we just facetimed and all of my family are together celebrating. Today is the second year out of all my 23.5 years that we’re not spending this day together. We will definitely make up for it next year. My brothers and sister and niece all took her to brunch this morning at this wonderful place…and so we didn’t feel like we were being left out our monthly challenge for January is to get brunch at Mama’s. Yum! I sent Monica a beautifully printed version of the above as my birthday gift; she loves Leonard Cohen and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. 

I hope you have a love-filled weekend wherever you are, birthday or no birthday Saturday is the perfect excuse to eat cake ;)