Endless Summer


A few weeks ago when chatting with my friend Kirstyn she asked me how I felt about not getting a summer holiday this year. While we both took some time to ourselves over the past few months this counts as the first summer in our respective 24 years where we haven’t had at least two months of pure freedom. Oh the perks of being a student. It wasn’t something I had thought about and so her question stopped me for a second.

Truly, it feels like I have been on summer holidays since I moved to California. I think it might have something to do with the weather? I’m joking…it has everything to do with the weather. I can count on one hand how many times it has rained since we arrived. (This is not a good thing, the drought is truly a natural disaster.) However, for this Irish girl so used to a damp, cold and changeable climate being able to count on sunshine for days on end is nothing short of revolutionary. 

It is one, big, long, endless summer and it’s coming to a close. My heart is starting to beat towards home again and it’s all kind of coming full circle. Before then here are some photos to recap on the last couple of months. 

When Hannah came we spent some time exploring San Francisco before embarking on our road trip. We cycled through the city and across the bridge to Sausalito which is a cheesy, touristy thing to do but definitely worth it. I love cycling around this city. 

We spent 4th of July at Lake Anza. I read half a book, basked in the heat of the glorious sunshine and avoided the millions of kids in the water. Haha. 

These above four photos are from Jack London Square in Oakland. For about ten minutes of my commute to work this is my view. It’s stunning no matter the weather or time of day—though the morning I shot these photos was particularly stunning.

What are brothers for except playing leap frog and other weird stuff like that? We have fought and we have made up and bickered and drove each other crazy this summer but it has been nice to have him here…most of the time. 

We have spent some time housesitting and garden-sitting over the last few months. These are some of my favourite photos I’ve taken this summer. 


Hanging out in Temescal Alley is always a good idea, especially for those filled-right-before-your-eyes doughnuts from Dolly’s! 

How has your summer been lovelies? It was 34 degrees on Monday and in the high 20s today so it doesn’t look like this summer is ending any time soon. I think we’ll just have to come home to get our quota of autumn-winter chills and cosy fireside cuddling. 

When Family Visits.

We had some visitors a couple of weeks ago and I can’t stop looking at the photos. It was a whirlwind week with my three year old cousin Emily and her lovely mama Mel. We ate, drank and did a lot of playing.  Three year olds don’t make for great tourists; they can be grumpy and demanding but when they’re sweet, they are so so sweet.

Here are some things I want to remember from this week:

How you momentarily forgot what ‘blowing a raspberry’ was and instead, when prompted, just blew air onto Richard’s belly. 

How you sat and painted pictures with me in the sunshine.

How we spent hours making ‘leaf soup’ in the garden from your previous day’s impromptu leaf collection. 

How you exclaimed with glee in the restaurant (we were playing Mr Napkinhead) and smashed a glass and then quietly said ‘sometimes I just get so excited.’

How you repeated Rich when he said that sunflower seeds were like crack to the chickens, ‘Yeah, like crack. Let’s give them some more crack.’

How you think we’re all silly, all the time. 

How you trust that we’ll always catch you, always find you, always love you.

How, during an epic-level tantrum you told us all to stay put while you left only to have you run back moments later crying that there was a road up ahead that you couldn’t cross. 

How you loved—and requested—Rich to drive fast. You say ‘that’s power, that’s real fast.’

How you somehow picked up an American accent by osmosis (on the plane?), stretching out your words like ‘fee-ast.’

How you say ‘I’m not cute, I’m a people.’ 

How you ask ‘do you need a cuddle?’

How you said ‘Clio likes to kiss me all the time but I don’t want to be kissed.’ I promptly stopped despite it breaking my heart. You’re just so kissable. 

How you hate pictures and cover your face whenever you catch sight of the camera. 

How a scary face involves you holding your fingers wide and over your eyes. 

How you picked blackberries for us every single day without fail but refused to even try one yourself. 

How you danced to the band in the restaurant on the day you arrived. And then you insisted Eoin dance too—not with you though, all on his own. 

How you laughed.  

How quickly we fell into ourselves, you and us—it was like no time had passed.

Embracing the Process.

As humans we strive to define ourselves. We make broad sweeping statements like ‘I hate mushrooms’ and ‘I’m so clumsy.’ Or, the oft hear and far more detrimental, ‘I’m so fat.’ Rarely do we take the time to question if these things are really true.

I don’t love mushrooms. But, cooked in the right way, even I will admit they can be pretty delicious. I can be clumsy sometimes, I can trip and I’m not the best tennis player on the planet but is clumsy something I should define myself as? Probably not.

It is a defence mechanism. It is easier to say ‘I’m terrible at sports, I have no hand eye coordination, I can’t run, I’m always falling over’ than it is to try. It is easier to accept these statements about myself than it is to try and prove them wrong. I’d rather not play that game of tennis for fear of all the balls I’ll miss and how stupid I might look huffing and puffing around the court getting nowhere fast. What I failed to realise in these kinds of scenarios is that the opportunity cost of forgoing the game of tennis, or run on the beach or mushroom risotto. What kinds of things have I missed out on because of who I thought I was or what I thought I liked? What kinds of things do you miss out on?

The things we tell ourselves over and over become our mantra. The words melt into belief, and over time become truths. I think too often we forget that we can redefine these truths whenever and however we want. 

Rich is teaching me to skateboard. We snatch thirty minutes here and there before the sun sets and when work schedules and dinner making allows. We go to a smooth, freshly tarmacadam-ed road near where we live and take turns. 

At first I thought ‘no way, this isn’t going to happen.’ Then I thought, why the hell not?

In the beginning I would hold Rich’s arm as he basically pulled me down the road, both feet on the board. As I gained more confidence, I started pushing with my right foot, learning how to move my body to stay in balance. Eventually he began to let go of me. I would go short distances, shouting for him to stay beside me. This feeling (and the shouting) brought with it intense flashbacks to learning how to ride a bike in the cul-de-sac near my house. I remember shouting at my mum not to let go, only to realise she wasn’t holding on at all. I can push off myself now, steer the board with my body and one day soon I’ll learn to actually stop and not just jump off mid-ride.

I’m not going to make pro any day soon (or, you know, ever) but it feels incredible to do something I never believed I could (that epic feeling of wind in my hair isn’t so bad either). The funny thing about skateboarding is that the more you let go, and relax your body, the easier and more natural it feels.

There is probably some life lesson in that. 

Since moving to California the rug has been firmly pulled out from beneath me. Whenever I feel like I am gathering myself and getting back up onto my feet it happens again. The ground shifts and I stumble. It is hard and it is hard and it is hard. The recovery gets easier with each fall though. Every new challenge that I face I do so with less worry and less hesitation. I am finding myself analysing less and letting go more easily. Maybe this is because I have no other choice than to continue onwards, or maybe it just means that I am growing. 

I am trying really hard to swallow criticism. I am saying ‘thank you’ a lot, feigning appreciation in order to foster the feeling. Criticism is one of my biggest stumbling blocks and in the past minor comments have left deep impressions that circled around my mind for days. This still happens occasionally but I am learning more and more to let the comments roll off my back. Focusing on negative remarks quashes my creativity and leaves me paralysed, unable to move on with a project or idea. Working in a creative field, criticism is a part of my daily life and something that, quite frankly, I wish I was used to by now. The older I get, and the further away from the world of education I grow, the bind between my self and my work is loosening. Not to say that I am distancing myself from my work, or extracting my personality from it, but that I am able to step back more easily now and not let the comments or criticisms of my work become comments and criticisms of my self.  It’s a work in progress, afterall.

I am learning to relax more, and feeling a somewhat smoother ride as a result. We haven’t transitioned to bumpy paths or up and down curbs yet, so who knows what’s to come. 

Whatever happens to you belongs to you. Make it yours. Feed it to yourself even if it feels impossible to swallow. Let it nurture you, because it will. 
— Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

Make Portraits: Growing East

A couple of weekends ago I met up with Lindsay to shoot some portraits for her blog, Growing East. It was a super hot day (by my Irish standards…she was wearing jeans which felt incomprehensible at the time) and we arranged to meet at Lake Merritt.

[Note to future Clío and Lindsay: Do not arrange to meet at Lake Merritt.]

After walking around the giant lake for a while and sending about a hundred text messages back and forth we figured where we each were and managed to meet up. Lunch, chats and some time later I got down to business and shot a beautiful roll of Portra 160 of this pretty lady. She claims to be camera-shy but I think the photos purport to quite the opposite. Check out her lovely blog to see some more shots from the afternoon. 

If you’re in the Bay Area and are in need of some super fine film photography—look me up! I’d be only delighted to hang out. 

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!