from fish spa to shopping, more on ireland

Sep 27, 2011

Rural Ireland through a camera viewfinder is like looking at a painting.  You can't help but marvel at the timeless beauty and feel like you're in an epic movie (cue the Shire music from Lord of the Rings).  Beautiful, sweeping landscapes are expected, as shown in my previous post on Ireland.  So, today,  I thought I'd talk more about the unexpected things about this country. . . like fish spas.

Fish spas are what I would expect in Japan, not in Galway, Ireland.  The idea behind a fish spa is that your feet are exfoliated by small fish feeding on dead skin.  I hadn't heard of fish spas before my friend, who was getting married, scheduled a session for the bridesmaids.  The description of the treatment is not enticing at all, but, admittedly,  I was intrigued.

For some reason, I was picturing an outdoor hot springs, but the fish place was in the local mall.  We signed up for a 15 minute session, each of us having our own tank of flesh eating fish.  And, you can choose between smaller or bigger fish- we all opted for the bigger. 

I guess it's supposed to feel like a tickling or bubbly sensation.  Seeing that my friends were nearly screaming the entire time, I don't think that was the case.  I didn't find it painful at all, but I also wouldn't say it was the most relaxing thing I've ever done.  Honestly, I'll stick with eating little fish than having it the other way. 

The next day, we continued with our feet-pampering bonding time with pedicures.  The last time I got a pedicure was two years ago, so I forgot to bring flip flops to wear afterwards.  My dear husband offered to pick up a pair, and he came back with something that reminded me of my Korean grandmother.  Yes, that is a bow on top.   I never thought that I would be eating bangers and mash in fabric flip flops. 

The most precarious part of our trip was renting a car.  We read a lot online and talked with insurance agents about the steep rental costs in Ireland (due to the extra coverage that is recommended).  After seeing signs like this all over Ireland, we now get it.  And I'm happy to report that we managed to keep our car out of the water!

Kellys, a boutique hotel located in the heart of Dublin

I try to support local businesses as much as possible.  And with Ireland's current economical hardship, I wanted to buy a few gifts that were exclusively made in Ireland.  I thought for sure that the little towns in Ireland would have plenty of craft and antique shops to keep me entertained, but, surprisingly, this kind of shopping was few and far between.  It wasn't until we arrived in Dublin when we stumbled upon a couple of amazing local shops.  Designist, located just a few doors down from our hotel, carries a wide range of contemporary and affordable home products made in Ireland and the UK.  And, just a short walk away, is the Irish Design Shop, which focuses solely on Irish designers and artists. 

One thing I was hoping to bring back was yarn made in Ireland, a request by my eldest daughter.  I found a number of shops that carried knit items, like the classic cable knit sweaters, but I had the hardest time finding skeins of yarn.  In Dublin, I finally was able to locate a local yarn shop.  But then I learned the most unexpected thing about Ireland- all their fleece is imported from New Zealand and South America!  I guess the sheep in Ireland don't have the right kind of fleece for harvesting.  But, there are so many sheep here, I stated to the store attendant.  Just for food, she replied.


Even after having my feet nibbled by little fish, driving on country roads with blind corners, and eating various versions of pork (just in breakfast alone),  I discovered that Ireland is very much like home.  And this has as much to do with its people as its scenic backdrop.  The Irish are friendly and down-to-earth, a description that is often times used for Portlanders.  We've already been invited back by some folks, and with much confidence, I can say that we'll be back one day. 

Anniversary Giveaway

Sep 23, 2011

With jet lag and all, I nearly forgot that today is Habit of Art's two year anniversary!  To celebrate (cause two blog years is like 27 human years), we must have a giveaway.  How about a sampling of my latest stationery goods?  The giveaway package will include my new cards, two Elevation and Cascade notecards, five Portland notecards, and some stickers.

Just leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly chosen on Wednesday, September 28 at noon.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

I'm touched by all the wonderful comments!  Thanks for all your support the past two years.  It means so much to me. 

The winner of the stationary giveaway is Brittan! 


Sep 22, 2011

Cliffs of Moher
Kells Priory
Ireland is everything I imagined and more.  The landscape boasts of rolling hills, green fields, and rocky cliffs, and we have been greeted only by the friendliest of folks.  For nine days, we traveled from one coastline to the next, covering hundreds of miles of beautiful scenery.  The lush, green countryside is actually not all that different from Oregon's Willamette Valley.  The grazing livestock in open fields is a familiar sight.  What sets the two places apart is the ancient Irish stonework that dots the land.  The stone ruins from ages past is a reminder of Ireland's longstanding history.  

We explored a number of towns in Ireland, from the urban scene of Dublin to the tiny coastal town of Doolin.  Big or small, the towns in Ireland are full of charm.  The streets are lined in cobblestone, waterways cut through the center of town, and the pub night scene is full of cheer [and beer!].

The first half of our trip was spent in the lovely town of Galway, located on the western coast of Ireland.  Our dear friend was marrying a local Irishman, and both my husband and I were part of the wedding ceremony.  

St. Nicholas in Galway

The ceremony was held in a medieval church built 700 years ago.  The groomsmen were dressed in tails and many of the ladies in attendance donned hats.  I asked to be called Pippa for the day.   

A wedding is a wonderful and intimate way to experience a culture, and I’m thankful that I was a part of such a special celebration.  The ceremony started at one in the afternoon, but Irish weddings continue through the wee hours of the morning.  I managed to stay up for the fish and chips served at midnight.  Nothing like eating fried food in the middle of the night in a fitted bridesmaid dress and heels!

A trip to Ireland wouldn't be complete without a traditional Irish breakfast.  Park of our b/b experience in Doolin
For two days of our trip, we stayed in a modern cabin referred to as a hermitage.  It is perched on a remote hillside, along with two other hermitages, overlooking the beautiful grounds of the Glencomeragh House.  It was the perfect home base as we traveled to nearby towns.  

The hermitages are outfitted with kitchenettes, so we dined in for a few meals.  With yummy cheese, salami, tomato, and baguette, it was as if we were on an extended picnic date.   

Below the hermitages, at the base of the hill, is a labyrinth.  A labyrinth is a circular path that you walk during meditation and prayer.  You start at one end of the path, and it eventually leads you to the center of the circle.  Posted next to the labyrinth is this stirring excerpt from Thomas Merton's Thoughts in solitude. 

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. 
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it. 
Therefore, I will trust you always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will fear not, for you are with me,
And you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

[all images by me]

Being back in Portland not even a day, our trip to Ireland already feels like a dream.  It was truly a magical time, and we eagerly look forward to returning to the Emerald Isle.

. . . next time, I'll remember to bring a waterproof windbreaker.

So you want to start a blog

Sep 13, 2011

Thanks to an ever growing high tech world, thousands of new blogs are born each day.  Most of these blogs, however, fall by the wayside within months.  Seeing that Habit of Art is turning two this month (and this being my fourth year blogging), I thought it only appropriate to share a few words on the topic. Over the last few months, I’ve had several inquiries from folks particularly interested in starting their own blog.  The start up stage of a blog is always an exciting time, but it can also be fraught with confusion and frustration.  Before you jump into blogging, here are some questions to consider first.

1. What’s the point?  If you can’t articulate the purpose of your blog in one or two concise sentences, then you’ll need to go back to the drawing board!  Some folks start a blog because they feel like they should, or they are intrigued with the idea.  But if the passion isn't there, it's going to show.  A good gauge of your interest level is your running list of post ideas.  Can you easily jot down a few dozen things to talk about in one short sitting?   Habit of Art was born out of my passion to share art with others, something I had been doing in my prior careers as a teacher and shop owner.  Even after over 400 blog posts, I feel that I have only scratched the surface. 

2. Can you write?  You don’t have to be an award winning author to be a blogger, but good grammar and solid syntax helps form your credibility.  Take time to edit your posts, and consult Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (my first book in college) from time to time.  Remember, posting on the internet is like writing in ink. It’s permanent!

3. Are you committed?  Blogging takes commitment.  And, to be completely frank, many of us have commitment issues.  A blog takes at least 6 - 12 months of consistent posts to start acquiring some kind of a readership base.  I tell new bloggers that they shouldn’t even bother starting a blog if they are not in it for at least a year.  For some reason, many new bloggers assume that readers will start flocking to their sites after a few posts.  But building an audience takes time!

4.  What the heck is html?  If you’re not familiar with computer lingo, then expect a high learning curve when starting your blog.  Even though blog platforms have become so much more user-friendly, it still takes some technical know-how to navigate the back end of a blog.  Just importing a photograph into a post, for example, can be a difficult task.  So be prepared to spend countless hours searching forums and help guides when setting up your blog.  And while you're at it, do some homework on feeds, domain names, and keywords.

If after all of this, you're still jazzed to start your own blog, then great!  Sounds like you've done your research and now just need a little push.  Writing that first post can always seem intimidating.  You think that millions of people will read your post after clicking the "publish" button.  The reality is, it's more like your mom and best friend, and only because you gave them the link.  Don't get stuck on having a perfect first post, or the right header design, or whether or not you want your profile on the right or left side of the page.  Just write, and everything else will eventually fall into place. 

my week

Sep 5, 2011

my husband and i spent a quiet evening [ie without kids] at st. jack
the pate was my favorite and the madeleines were so heavenly

whenever i need an article of clothing altered,
i go to a lady named ginny who has the most amazing barbie collection [100 plus and counting]
i brought the girls with me this time around- you can only imagine their faces

enjoyed one of the last days of summer break as a family wading at opal creek

wedding mania:
i worked on my first wedding invitation design
and i'll be heading to ireland soon for a friend's wedding! 

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