The not-as-gorgeous Dublin

Recently I’ve been playing a fun game with myself of getting lost; of walking down tiny streets in my neighborhood and discovering little treasures. These little streets are the opposite of the wide Georgian avenues, but they are full of Irish charm non-the-less.

Herewith, some examples of doors that would not make the “Doors of Dublin” posters/calendars/coasters that we are all so familiar with. 

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More to follow…

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The not-as-gorgeous Dublin

Boston.

I have not stopped thinking about the Boston Marathon attacks since Monday night. Boston is not “my” city, but I know it very well, and many close friends and family live there. 

All I can think about is how LUCKY I am to live in a country–and be from another–where attacks like this provoke such world-wide outrage. These type of attacks occur in other countries every day and don’t get any attention. As Westerners, we are lucky enough to be able to feel the full shock and horror at such an awful event; violence is not a part of our daily lives. I’ve had a little grey cloud hanging over my head the past few days (and it’s not just Dublin weather) because I just feel so sad for the world. The whole world….it all seems so grim.

The relief I feel in knowing all my loved ones are safe, and that the damage could have been so, so much worse, doesn’t out-weigh the guilt I feel knowing that other people deal with this kind of violence every day of their lives. I’m having a hard time justifying my anger because we all lead such lucky, lucky lives. 

Ireland has certainly seen more of this kind of domestic terror that Americans. My family and I were in Northern Ireland when the bomb rocked Omagh in 1998. Being Americans on summer vacation, it was a totally surreal experience. Bombs don’t happen in our lives. I remember wondering how I was supposed to feel (scared? angry?) because the idea of it was too foreign for me to be able feel anything naturally.

I mostly feel sad now. Upset. I feel frustrated that it takes this kind of gruesome act to make me wonder why I don’t have the same reaction when I hear about explosions killing innocent people in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria (for example). 

I hope that a positive effect of this atrocity is that we have a greater sympathy, and a common ache, when it happens anywhere in the world. 

Boston.

Summer in the City

On days like this in NYC, when the heat index is over 100 degrees, getting dressed at all can be annoying. With a month of summer left I am sort of already hankering for autumn dressing: layers, tights, boots, and jackets. I love jackets. As I am sweating in my air conditioning free living room (it’s good for the skin, it’s good for the skin), I realize that I am so bored of my summer dresses. Yes, I like being able t throw on one piece of clothing and go, but it’s really uninteresting.

One of things that is helping me through this too hot summer is knowing that Dublin, where I am moving more permanently in September, is the kind of place where autumn dressing lasts year round. It is never this hot, but it is  also never as bitterly cold as it is here either. It is perpetual autumn. You almost always need a little wool jacket, a scarf and a few layers.

I would love to even need a cardigan. Of course the grass is always greener. I will be aching to just throw on one dress and a pair of shoes and go come January. But when I am only wearing about three or four dresses for the whole summer, I’m ready for more variety.

Summer in the City

Maxi Madness

Not one to jump into the cool kids’ trend too early, I’ve been sitting back and watching the summer maxi dress parade with mild confusion. In New York city, why anyone would want anything to cover so much of their body was beyond me. However, while in London in early July, so many ladies were rocking a cotton maxi my confusion lessened–it’s not AS hot, and evenings are cool–but I still didn’t consider one for myself. It was a bit too ‘trendy’ and you know I like to stay away from the ‘in’ fashion moments. It didn’t help that two very good male friends in London said they thought maxis were awful looking. They said they look forward to summer for light, flowing (read: body skimming) sun dresses, not full length body covering cotton. Fair point.

But women’s fashion is rarely about men, and since mid-July (and being back in NYC) I didn’t consider that I would want to join this summer fashion movement.

Until there was a cotton, stripped, sleeveless maxi dress for $10 at the Gap. It fit, it felt a little like a nighty (which is kind of sexy), but best of all it kept me pretty warm on a long, freezing, bus ride down to DC. It keeps me a reasonable temperature when I step from the sweltering subway platform onto a freezing carriage. This is a trend that I didn’t want to adopt mostly because it was a trend, but I have to say, I feel very happy with my new maxi.

And best of all, it will be perfect for the move back to Dublin in September. I won’t want to let go of summer fully, but it will keep me that little bit warmer in a city that doesn’t quite reach the temps of an NYC summer. In fact, it is a perfect summer to fall garment, especially in Ireland where you can get summer, autumn and winter in one day. The maxi is a smart little piece after all.

Maxi Madness

60’s NYC vs. NYC Now

I find myself in a bit of a predicament. I am going to watch the Mad Men Season Premier in Times Square this evening. Many viewers go in costume, turning a triangle of mid-town Manhattan back to 1963. I am not the type of girl who often attends public dressing-up spectacles, but for Mad Men I am considering making an exception. I’ve touched on how great I think the ladies of the hit show look a few months ago in this blog, and that opinion still stands. It’s not like dressing up to see Rocky Horror after all. The other reason I am seriously considering donning my best ’60s wear is that I have some good ’60s wear: my grandmother saved most of her clothes from this (and other) time period, and of the pieces she saved about 70% fit me perfectly. So what’s the problem? Here’s the problem: most of them are wool suits, lovely fall coats, hats and gloves. New York City was over 100 degrees yesterday.

So. Then I think I can use some creative fashion re-imagining and try to turn some of my contemporary clothes into the style of the ’60s. Problem two: all of the clothes that could possibly be used for this purpose are black. Most of the clothes that I wear around this city are black (or at least dark). Most of the summer dresses you see on women on the streets are black. For better or worse, New York ladies have not moved away from the classic (and yes, highly useful) little black dress. We are slaves to it. If we’ve learned one thing from the ’60s that Matthew Weiner has created it’s that the ladies of New York dressed in lovely, bright color.

Color. I need color. I need to let go of the “black is so simple and always looks clean and neat” for tonight. But maybe I should do it for always. I am a big believer in the importance and necessity of a LBD, but I do think we New Yorkers could inject more color on a daily basis. When I’m not wearing black, I’m wearing a version of grey, or navy blue, or (if I’m feeling really brave) white. I hadn’t really realized it until I tried to build an outfit with color. I don’t have much color besides some t-shirts.

This little Mad Men predicament has made me think about my desperate need for some color in my wardrobe. I consider myself a colorful person and would not have said that I dress with such color neutrality. But it appears I do.

So for tonight, I may take a floral blouse of my grandmothers and a perfect ’60s black hat with netting and make a nod to the ’60s, as it seems I can’t do it fully. (I am also not one of those girls who can scour racks in second hand shops and find something magical. I don’t posses that talent.) But I will try, from now on, to remember how good color looks (and not just on TV), and save the little black dresses for when they are really needed.

60’s NYC vs. NYC Now

Eating in America

One of the things that concerned me most about traveling through the United States was its total and complete lack of good, healthy, quick food.

I realize that much has been written and discussed about the state of American’s eating habits and the general obesity problem we seem to have. After visiting seven states over two weeks (and passing through a few others) I can safely say that it is hard–nigh on impossible–to eat well while traveling across the country. By eating well, I mean eating fruits and vegetables, or any low-fat, high energy foods. To come across foods that fall into even one of those categories costs money, precious time and energy to do. Healthy ‘food on the go’ is not something America does well. Or at all.

This is just another situation that made me aware how America is different from NYC. In New York you can grab a healthy snack–be it a piece of fruit, a fresh juice or smoothie, or even salt-free raw nuts and sugar free granola bars–for not very much money on almost every corner.

On the road, it was hard to find unsalted peanuts, unsweetened granola bars, sugar-free yogurt, and almost impossible to find a piece of fruit or any vegetables. As my father said, ‘nothing is alive’.

As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, Ireland takes top prize when it comes to snacking options; crisps are much better here, as are all the options for sweets and chocolate. I realize this does not fall into the healthy eating options, but Dublin does do a good job making healthy options available and easy to find. I may be more tempted by the better choices of the bad stuff here, but I can always find something, for not too much money, that’s alive and a healthy option.

It’s been over ten years since I’ve done a big road trip in Ireland, and I can’t remember if the Irish have the same problem we do: once you are out of an urban area it is harder to eat well. Seeing as though a road trip is a very American thing to do, I would have thought something other than McDonald’s (or similar) would be available.

Living in New York had led me to believe that American’s were working towards being healthy, on the go and at home. Being on the go and out of the big city proved I was wrong. That’s my big New York mindset getting in the way again.

Eating in America

An Island All Alone

Hello! I am back in Ireland (for a brief moment) after an amazing adventure across the United States with my family (goinplaceswithsmilinfaces.wordpress.com). As well as being great family time, it was a very interesting anthropological trip across my country. I have to say, I learned a ton about a country I thought I knew; I fell in love with some cities I never thought I’d visit (Montgomery, AL, Marfa, TX), and made some interesting discoveries about America and Americans which I will share with you.

But not all at once. I made discoveries about food, music, fashion, weather and Americans in general. Too much for one post. What a huge country! Really!

What I will say, first and foremost, is this: No two towns, cities, counties or states in America are the same. There are some things that all of America shares: bad fast food and country music (and country music is not bad!) to name a few, but more often than not, each place has an individuality that is tangible.

The other fact that stood out to me is that Manhattan, NYC, really is its own little world. There is no other place like the Big Apple, and all of my references in this blog about how Americans are/dress/act really should only be referring to New Yorkers. And even when I say New Yorkers, I mostly mean Manhattan-ites/ettes. Most other places in America are more similar to Dublin than they are to NYC.

And more of that to come….

An Island All Alone