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! 

San Francisco: Arriving.

golden_gate_bridge

We arrived into San Francisco airport late on Thursday evening after two flights. Dublin to JFK was smooth and comfortable. I finished my book and watched a film. JFK to San Francisco was less so, but we made it and I will be happy to not step foot on another plane for a while. 

Currently we are staying in Berkeley with friends of Rich’s mum. The apartment we are staying in is creaky and character filled. It is accessed by walking under an arch of fragrant honeysuckle. Yesterday we attempted to orientate ourselves by walking around, getting some sunshine and figuring out what is what. We walked up towards UC Berkeley and wandered through the beautiful, squirrel filled campus. Jet lag got the better of me and I found it hard to stay conscious through a five thirty dinner. 

Today we were given a ‘dollar tour’ of the city with our host Chris who brought us all over San Francisco, pointing out landmarks and tourist attractions along the way. We ate lunch outside at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park in the company of some very cheeky and well socialised black birds and starlings. It was one of those occasions where as I was queuing up to order I realised I was completely ravenous. I ordered a veggie burger and Rich a salad with the intention of swapping half way through…but mine was too good to share more than a couple of bites! Ha! After admiring the Golden Gate Bridge from afar we were driven across it and stopped to take some awful touristy, but obligatory, selfies on the other side. 

We met with a friend from Dublin for a drink in the afternoon at a bar called Mikkeller and for a little while I forgot we were even in California. After that Rich dragged me up a huge hill…which was worth it for the candy-floss-pink sunset we were awarded with at the summit.

Dinner, chats and an accidental BART misadventure later and we’re home, trying to stay awake just a little while longer in the hopes of a later morning tomorrow. Jet lag is but a small price to pay. 

So far so good San Francisco, I think we’re going to like it here.

Put Down Your Phone, Please.

I went to a concert on Saturday night. 

It was really good. We found a nice spot in the crowd where the people weren’t too tall and view of the stage wasn’t awful. 

It was really good. But our enjoyment of it was hampered by all of the people on their phones. Holding them up to record video. Instagramming. Taking photos. There were so many people live-tweeting the whole thing, hashtags and all. It took real effort (on my part) to see it happening, look away and let it go.

We spent the entire walk to the taxi talking about it, when we should have been talking about how great the gig was and how brilliant the band sounded. 

What is wrong with this generation? Why can’t we just stand and sway and feel the beat of the drums in our chests without taking a million fucking pictures. Are we that disengaged? Are we that afraid to feel. Listening to live music is one of the most visceral, beautiful and life affirming experiences. When else do we get to stand with hundreds, sometimes thousands of others all gathered for the soul purpose of hearing the same melody, tapping the same beat and singing the same tune? 

I am guilty too. I disappear into instagram or facebook or blogs when I’m sitting on the luas or waiting in a queue. I am guilty of being swallowed by my phone when I should be paying attention to my boyfriend or a friend. I am guilty of taking too many pictures instead of just being and enjoying the moment. It is hard, I know that. It is much easier to look at our phones instead of catching the glance of a stranger on the bus or having to chat to the guy in the line at the supermarket. It is much easier to detach ourselves from where we are standing and live virtually for a few minutes. I know, I know. But we are losing ourselves. 

And it is not right.

When you pay to go to a concert, to see a band that you really like and you stand there watching them through a three inch by four inch screen with added hashtags and sharing and likes and comments that is just plain wrong. By all means take a photo, a memento, if you must. I did. I took two. And then I put my phone away. Because while I felt compelled to take a photograph because the lighting made the crowd look a way that quickened my pulse I knew that I could not ever capture what I was really feeling. Some things can’t be contained in a three inch by four inch phone screen. Most things that matter can’t. 

We would do well to remember that, at music concerts, on public transport and elsewhere. 

How to Plan the Perfect Hen Party*

*and survive it

On the last Saturday of June we showered my sister with love, embarrassment and alcohol for her hen party. She has three bridesmaids, myself and two friends from different groups. When she first asked us to be part of the wedding party I was the only one based in Dublin, Aisling was in New York and Ruth in London. This coupled with the fact that the three of us all know Aoife in totally different ways was a minor logistical challenge. But we made the most of it. Aisling moved home from New York and Ruth kept up to date via whatsapp and skype.

Early on I knew that whatever the theme was we had to give it 110%. There’s no point in half-assing things and a little follow through, planning and dedication was all that was needed to really hammer our ideas home (and I’m an ‘art’ student for goodness sake…I had to prove myself!).

We ended up going with a tropical theme because we thought that a visit to Tropical Popical on South William Street would be fun. Shortly after deciding on this we realised that it’s clearly the theme of this summer. From fashion to interiors to accessories there is tropical shit EVERYWHERE at the moment. It certainly made buying prizes and decorations super easy.

I pinned a couple of things on pinterest. Googled a couple of others. Picked a few decorations to make. And then I spent weeks making golden palm leaves, days making a watermelon pinata and a couple of hours making crepe paper streamers…among lots of other bits and pieces. Because I had been steadily making things for a few weeks when I collated everything with the girls the night before the party it all felt a little bit overwhelming. I was worried it wasn’t enough or that it wouldn’t come together…but thankfully it all did. I don’t know how people do crazy DIY weddings (they must get so emotional).

TIP #1: Plan ahead. 

Buy or make things little by little or stagger your online purchases. You won’t realise how much you are actually spending (and achieving). It also helps ease the pain your wallet will be feeling right about now. Parties are expensiiiive, there are no two ways about it.

TIP #2: DIY. 

Make as much as you can. I like to make things so doing the decorations myself was fun…but it also helped in saving lots of money. For example a packet of crepe paper is 75c but to buy one garland or string of bunting could be anywhere up to a tenner or more! This also goes for food. Lucky for us Aisling is a stellar cook and made the most delicious array of tropical salads for us to eat before heading out to get our nails done. It might be slightly more stressful to do this but it was a million times more delicious. We also made a load of easy, bake ahead, treats for the nail bar (chocolate biscuit cake, brownies, marshmallow toppers and cupcakes).

TIP #3: Don’t focus on the bride. 

At times we would get caught up with whether or not Aoife was going to have the besttimeeverrrr or whether certain things would be to her taste or not. Then I would realise that we were being crazy and neurotic and the only surefire way to guarantee she would love the night was by making sure that everyone else was loving the night. We focussed on providing the elements for a good time (alcohol, stupid games, Mr & Mrs with forfeits etc) and hoped for the best. It worked! You can’t force fun and thankfully we didn’t have to try.

These were definitely the easiest, most effective and quickest decorations I made. They also happened to be the last thing I did the night before! I followed this tutorial. 

I used Yellow Owl Stamp Company stamp blocks (from Moss Cottage) and ink and carved a pineapple and watermelon stamp…and then pretty much stamped everything in sight.

Including the goody bags! I ordered the canvas bags on ebay and then stamped them with watermelons and pineapples. Inside they each had a mini water bottle with two paracetamol attached (for the morning after), a bottle of bubbles, a flump (Aoife’s favourite), some balloons, a tropical flower for the girls’ hair, a glow stick and the most amazing M&Ms that Ais got printed in New York with the groom’s face on them!

Aoife’s friend Amy has a rule that when she gets her nails done she had to pick a colour she would never buy to make it worthwhile. I thought it was a pretty good rule…she went for bright orange and purple, suitably tropical!

So many treats in Trop Pop…they were so delicious. Also, how cool are those coconut cups? When you go to TP on a regular day you get Lilt in them!

This pinata took so long to wrap but it was so worth it in the end. I filled it with loads and loads of sweets as well as condoms and mini packets of lube. Aoife bashed it down and I just turned it upside down and spilled the contents (I hadn’t bothered to cover up the hole in the top I used to fill it which was handy!).

 This was an old wine box that I painted white and stamped with watermelons, we used it to stash the prizes for the games. I love how it turned out.

I spent weeks making tons of these golden palm leaves and then Ruth and Monica strung them from the roof of the venue. They turned our even better than I had envisioned, I really love them.

For our first hen party I think we did pretty well and the decorations all turned out better than I could have hoped. I’m not going to lie though I was delighted once it was all over and I could sleep and socialise and not spend any more money for a few days. Aoife enjoyed it and the girls all had a good time so that’s all that really matters anyway. I took some photos of the lunch at home on my film camera so I’ll share a few of them once I get them back from the lab. 

PS I didn’t bring any camera except my iphone out that night and I forgot to take any photos really so thanks to Amy and some of the other girls for these shots!

The year of the baby.

Way back in January I wrote ‘2014 The Year of The Baby’ on a blackboard hanging in the kitchen of my brother’s house. His girlfriend was pregnant at the time and it felt pretty apt. We were all really excited to meet their baby and it was to be the first grandchild and niece or nephew for both families.

Lola was born at the beginning of may and we are all smitten. Being an aunt is pretty cute so far.

On Friday my second first-cousin-once-removed was born. That label is ridiculous, all that matters is she’s family and we love her. Her name is Sophie and she looks just like her dad.

This year has been so  goddamn full. It’s hard to believe that we’re not even halfway through yet. Somedays I feel like I’ve felt my quota of feelings for the year. Somedays I just want it be done. This year has been truly terrible. This year has been truly wonderful. I’ve been my saddest and my happiest too. It’s strange how that is. Everything is here and everything is gone.

I believe that tragedy has the ability to pull us apart or glue us together. I remember saying to my mum that I’d never felt such a strong sense of community as I had in the weeks after Cian died. Without knowing what to say or do or feel we all instinctively glued ourselves together. We stepped on toes and said the wrong things and cried in kitchens and ate a hell of a lot of cake. We hugged and fought and made up. One of my aunts said ‘we’re loving each other and killing each other’—but if that isn’t a pretty apt definition of family I don’t know what is.

I posted on instagram that it felt like my lot in life to be surrounded by babies. I really think it is. I have always been a baby person. Always happy to hang out with little cousins or friends babies. My mum once got me out of bed to hold a four month old for forty minutes while his mum was in a lesson. He was cute and I was happy to oblige. A friend in college told me that my face changes when I’m holding a baby, I look different and happy. I took that as a pretty huge compliment. Though I can’t comprehend how anyone’s face wouldn’t change when holding a teeny tiny squishy human. I will never understand how people don’t like babies. Holding a newborn is enough to make you stop and breathe and let go of whatever bullshit is going on.

Even if it is just for a moment.