Tag Archives: Ireland

Pack me up and take me away

In preparation for my second trip to Ireland with my fabulous Carlow colleagues, I have decided to document my attempt to fit everything I need for 11 days into a smaller, more easily manageable size. Pictured below is the bag that I found at Ross, a discount store for $30 bucks, and it is glorious. I take it with me everywhere, so when I vowed I would take this instead of my normal suitcase, it was bound to get ugly when the packing time came.


Luckily, I did my research. And a lot of it. I spent hours on Pintrest and Google trying to find the best formula for minimal packing, and while I plan to check my bag anyways (it’s free) I want to make sure I’m not bringing more than I need. My first plan was finding the right set of clothes, ones I knew would make me feel put together and work in the weather I was traveling. Ireland is beautiful, but it won’t be 80 degrees in June, so I had to make sure to pack coats and sweaters. I , have a phenomenal wool overcoat that I discovered on the racks of Goodwill for $8, and a Columbia jacket in grey that I plan to wear on the plane.


Everything that needs packed

topsThen I wanted to supplements the bulky sweaters with some classic graphic tees that I could bring some of myself over with me. Two band t-shirts (Paramore and Escape the Fate), one plain grey t-shirt (from Target and I plan to buy more), and a printed Tiger shirt. These would be the staples on which I could build my wardrobe for the trip. I could potentially do without so many shirts, but I make up for it by having less bottoms.

I wanted to go with a theme that would compliment each piece, so I stuck with blues and greens with some accents. For example, my camisoles and tanks are both colored and patterned. Leopard, blue and black to go with the various outfits I have constructed.


The bottoms I chose were very different from the last time, which is always a good thing. I think I took three pairs of jeans, two skirts, and two pair sweats last time. Definitely not going to happen this time. I have one pair of sleep leggings which can also be a change of clothes, one pair of good shapewear leggings in black (substituted for grey in this photo because they haven’t arrived yet), one pair of jeans (wearing on the plane), one pair of dress shorts, and one bodycon skirt that goes with just about anything.


I know that may not seem like much less to you, but the versatility of these pieces greatly out weighs the ones I took last time. Speaking of too much, you can see I am only bringing three pairs of shoes. The boots I plan to wear on the plane and the sneakers and flats will be packed one in the carry-on and one in my checked bag in case my luggage is lost and I need a change of shoes.

Oh, and I almost forgot, I have two lovely dresses for the special dinners we are having, but they can also be used in other outfits. I am so excited to wear these.


Finally, I have some accessories to go with the outfits. I have two scarves, two pairs of tights, one of which I have to smother in glitter before I go. Not pictured is a skinny black belt and in one of the outfits I have pictured below is a brown belt.


Now before I show you the outfits I have pre-planned for the trip, I want to preface them by saying I don’t have them all accessorized because seriously trying on 14 outfits and accessorizing each of them is confusing and very time consuming so you will have to use your imagination. It took an extremely long time to plan these outfits, but now that it’s done I won’t have to worry about what to wear once I’m on my trip. So, here goes nothing. The trick is to pick a color palette and stick to it so that you don’t take any unnecessary clothing. I’m sure I could do without a shirt or two and a pair of shoes, but oh well. It’s a much better selection and style than last time.

Oh and my trial run for packing worked! I was able to fit everything in with room to spare, so hopefully (crosses fingers) I’ll have plenty of room for souvenirs.

Day 1 and 2

Day 1 and 2

The first outfit is my travel day and I’m actually trading out the sweater for my grey Columbia jacket because the sweater is easier to pack than to wear. My beautiful leopard dress could also be paired as a skirt with a basic black shirt that I picked up at Goodwill for $3.

Day 3 and 4

Day 3 and 4

My favorite outfits involve the bodycon skirt (left) that I found at Macy’s and my dress shorts (right).  They make me feel like I’m less of a bum and  that I’m actually trying to look put together, which I hope I am.

Day 5 and 6

Day 5 and 6

Here is where I stopped putting shoes on. It was hard to get all of the outfits ready to take photos haha. I chose to only bring one pair of jeans because to be honest they are too bulky to include in every outfit. I picked a pair that were lightweight and easy to pack. On the right side, I have my grey leggings which were substitutes for these Suddenly Skinny shape wear leggings that have officially blown my mind. They are very comfortable, I don’t know what I would do without them now. So they are going with me to Ireland.

Day 7 and 8

Day 7 and 8

Here’s where I circle back in the white sweater and the bodycon skirt to new outfits. I think it’s easier to have more tops to pair with a few bottoms because tops can be mixed easier.

day 9 and 10

The most important step to planning the outfits is to finding pieces that you can mix and match. It may take a little bit of practice, but the harder you look at your clothes, the more outfits can come out each piece.

day 11 extra outfit

Finally, I picked out a going out  outfit (right) that I could wear on the night all of the girls go out because sadly there are mostly girls in the graduate writing program. I also made two separate outfits for the opening and closing dinners shown below. I am really excited to wear these. Oh and apparently Nyla wanted to be in the picture. She is such a silly kitty.

dinner outfits

But here it is–my packing list for Ireland. 11 days and a few extra outfits for going out and the special dinners.

What are your packing tips and tricks? Share in the comments section and if you have any questions on how to pack for a two week trip with minimal luggage, ask away!

Happy reading and writing!


Filed under Idea of the Day

Oh Dublin, How I Love Thee!

After 11 glorious days in Dublin, Ireland, I have returned home with an overflow of ideas and knowledge. What I had hoped to be a disaster-free trip, turned into so much more.

The trip began when I left my cozy, little apartment in Pittsburgh. It truly became an adventure when I finally sat on an airplane for the first time. While friends and family attempted to prepare me for the first trip hundreds of feet in the air, nothing compared to how it actually felt.  The adrenaline rush is akin to riding a roller coaster–only better! And the best part of the ride–the descent through the layers of clouds back to ground.

Once I arrived in Ireland, there was a new world to explore, and I was ecstatic to begin.

The beautiful old architecture that makes Trinity College so amazing to visit

We arrived at Trinity College in the unusual heat of an Irish summer day, and it was beautiful! The feeling you get when you walk down the cobblestone paths (besides exhaustion if you’re dragging a suitcase) is utter enjoyment knowing that Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde have walked on the same ground at one point.  The only disappointment of the campus is that the internet cost 15 euro for a guest, there is a ginormous walk to the computer labs, and my room was on the third floor (requiring me to walk up 8 flights of stairs).  The accommodations were perfect for an 11 day stay including the best shower and  cleaning services every day.

Now that I have established the setting for my stay in Dublin, let me tell you about the classes. Featuring some of the biggest names in Irish writing, the amazing MFA program allowed the students to sit and talk with the following authors/poets:

Edna O’Brien, Anne Enright, Hugo Hamilton, Claire Keegan, Kevin Barry, James Heaney, Paula Meehan, Kevin Power, Brandon Barrington, Harry Clifton, Gerald Dawe, Adrian Frazier, Sean Hardie, Brian Leyden, Molly McCloskey, Mary O’Donnell, Michael O’Loughlin

One of the most astounding qualities of this program is the ability for the staff and mentors to provide the best possible experience for those 11 days. I was swept away by the mystical quality of the speakers each and every day. Not only did I re-discover the passion for my writing, but I found the discipline I had been longing for since I began the program. With the help of Claire Keegan, Hugo Hamilton, and my mentor, Evelyn Conlon, I was able to grasp my purpose as a writer, and lock it safely within myself.

The amount of knowledge that has been stored in my mind hasn’t even been processed yet, but I can tell my writing has already changed in the short time I have been on my trip to Ireland.

The great view of the ocean from Dalkey!

It is from the experiences within the walls of Trinity College and in the streets of Dublin itself that I shall grow as a fiction writer. I will be coming out with more installments of what I have learned as well as sharing the pieces I have written since I left. Professors and professions sometimes say that you should write what you know. I will leave you with a piece of genius I learned  from Claire Keegan: writing what you don’t know is more exciting, and it allows you to truly understand how a character lives if you find out how the story will end with them. So, be prepared for the next few weeks because I will be dumping the mountains of insightful quotes and tips about writing I have learned onto your lap for you to learn as much as I have in the last two weeks.

Happy writing/reading! Cheers!

The bell tower of Trinity

The Sniffy Liffey!









The Garden of Remembrance

You have to be told which way to look. Trust me when I say..it was needed! I’m almost going to miss looking down to see where the traffic is coming from

Amy and Rory’s Door!! Minus the sign on the top of the door




Filed under Breaking News

Reader’s Appreciation Award: The Literary Tears are Flowing

Although The Other Watson has been one of my followers to always nominate me for an award, I am truly honored to be appreciated for reading. This is a monumental award for me because I love reading so much. He was one of the first blogs I followed when I created this blog, and has continued to captivate my attention months later (which is not easy to do in this attention deficit world).

His usual post will incite a bundle of questions regarding your own writing style and what books you love to read, in addition to proving you with endless suggestions for future reading. Now if you’re like me  (living in the U.S. and haven’t traveled much) finding friends across the globe is one of the perks of blogging, and The Other Watson is my first British/Aussi friend. The culture he places in his posts is subtle enough that you can learn from him the differences from here in the U.S. and it is delightful. He has a sweet way of discussing books and writing like they are his children, and he never gets boring. So, please check him out when you have the time. It is definitely worth the trip because he keeps me coming back for good posts and great conversations.

Now, onto business. He has nominated me for the Reader’s Appreciate Award, which I gladly accept and now move on to the requirements of the award. First, the picture…

Next, as designated by my nominator, I should tell you what I have been doing. In the last week or two, I have been preparing for my glorious study abroad trip to Dublin, Ireland. I have been working for weeks to compile list upon list of the things I will need on the trip. It seems one week away is too much for me to handle because the excitement is nearly bursting through me. As I prepare for my trip, I recently had my hair dyed. New aspect of life=new hair. I have always felt that a fresh hair cut and a new color are two great ways to start off a journey. So, here is the color:

New color for a great new adventure

Finally, I have been revising the beginning of my novel in preparation for the new semester. The story is set in London, and it features a young teen who is coping . She has just moved from Philadelphia to Lewisham, and comes across an unlikely friend in this scary, new place. Little did she know that the new friend would turn her into something she never thought existed. It’s difficult to tell what I’m writing since I have never been to London or even in a different country, so hopefully my trip to Ireland will help create an authentic trip for my character.

Onto the next part of the award I am giving the award to 6 of my best followers who always manage to find the time to read and comment on my newest posts. Although I appreciate every single reader for that each day of the week 🙂

Mywithershins -who gives me reassurance and constant feedback on my posts and ideas.

John -who combats every comment with insightful information I didn’t know to add to my post.

katkasia -who never fails to add fun, relevant comments to my page.

Maeve Murray -my writing sister and fellow student in Carlow’s MFA program. She is a mutual reader of my page as I am of hers. 🙂

Rustic Recluse -who is a new follower with kind, detailed comments to my most recent posts. Check out his page!

And of course, The other Watson -who gives me awards and dozens of comments responding to the silly questions at the end of every post.

Check out these mentioned pages because they have the quality and energy worth taking a few minutes to read. Speaking of reading, what is everyone else reading at the moment?


Filed under Breaking News

Place is Everywhere, Captain Obvious!

As strange as it seems, place keeps coming back and slapping me in the face. “I’m everywhere,” it says. “Use me!” And so when I venture to the great Emerald Isle, I will embark on a writing journey completely focused…on place.

How can someone not write about this??

Located hundreds of miles from my tiny apartment is the brilliant city of Dublin where I will learn how the wonderful country of Ireland feels, smells, and sounds.  Place allows everything in a story to prosper if the writer lets it. Too often stories are set in a wonderful place, and the writer kills it before it can build a life of its own. It is in other stories that place becomes the center of the characters’ lives and without it the story falls a part. Ireland brings me an opportunity to experience the world as it was before cell phones, electricity, and even indoor plumbing.

It is the magic of the land that I hope to soak in and apply to my writing. A chance to breath in the history and the myth of the ancient world.  After starting the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, the mystical elements of the land seem into my sub-conscious and beg of me to search for faeries and leprechauns on my trip. I have a goal to wander the wilderness of Ireland in search for the Otherworld, but perhaps that will have to come in my dreams or my writing. Regardless, a trip to this magical place has inspired an idea of epic proportion, which I hope will blossom on my journey to Dublin.

Instead of forests and streams, my trip will be full of the Dublin nightlife, which will hopefully still hold the magic of Ireland!

What magical place have you always dreamed of traveling to and writing about? Share your thoughts here!

Happy reading and writing!!


Filed under Idea of the Day

The Pitfalls and Rewards of Studying Abroad

I am slowly gathering together the things I need for my awesome June residency in Dublin, Ireland. The cost is insane, but the reward will be priceless. The opportunity to write and learn in one of my ancestral homes has been a dream for as long as I can remember.

My process for getting ready has been slow (due to money issues), but as a first time international traveler I have jumped one major hurdle….THE PASSPORT.

I have finally applied for my passport. Most friends and family advised I  do it almost a year in advance to ensure I received it. I could have been super cautious, but the truth is that if you know the system, you don’t have to work that far in advance. Typically in the off season (not Summer/vacation times) it will take about 2 to 3 weeks for your passport to be processed and arrive (according to the guy at the post office). With that in mind, I am confident that applying only a few months before my departure will allow ample time for my passport to arrive.

It was a hairy process to start as many people already know. For those that don’t I will give you a run-down.

1) It’s expensive, so before you begin save at least $150 to cover the costs of getting the passport.

2) Documentation is the most important aspect of this process. If you have all your ducks (papers) in a row, then the process will go by a lot smoother. You will need first: your birth certificate (and if you don’t have that you’ll need to research the alternatives) with raised seal/lettering and both your parents’ names. For Pennsylvanians, this new rule has posed a huge problem. Until somewhat recently, birth certificates in PA did not require the names of parents, which makes the passport application process more difficult. Next, a photo ID (driver’s license usually) will have to be photo copied front and back on one page to prove you are who you are.

3) That damn picture is one of the most difficult parts of the process. If you do it yourself, there is a list of parameters you must follow before it is accepted. And if you don’t do it yourself, the cost of having the post office or acceptance facility will cost you. $40 with the U.S.P.S. to be exact. It may seem excessive, but if you want it done right, then you’re bound to pay the money if you can’t do it yourself.  Although I know that Rite-Aid (drugstore chain) has been known to do passport pictures, as well as AAA for a LOT cheaper.

4) Filling out the application should be the easy part. One thing you must be careful of when filling out important papers is to use pen with care. Read carefully because your responses must be placed correctly or it will not go through. I found that for U.S. citizens, the passport book will let you go anywhere, but the passport card is mainly for traveling just to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and Bermuda. Be careful about which one you pick because it will save a minute of your time.

5) Finally, paying the fees. Ensure that you have the money set aside and what forms of payment are accepted. If you can figure out how much and who to write the checks to it will make the process go by quicker. Just be sure to have to money in there because they will charge you tons of extra money if you don’t have sufficient funds.

With all of that said, I am looking forward to receiving my passport. I have dreamed of the day I could leave the country, and travel to some of the most exciting places in the world. The postal service employee was intrigued to know why I was going to Ireland, and when I said writer he was surprised. It was nice to received such an optimistic response from a stranger. Some people don’t have respect for the craft, and automatically assume you’re a dumb, starving artist roaming the world for some useless inspiration.

At the same time, he encouraged my dad to get a passport in case I was “hit by a shalelie” and I needed my parents to come get me. Not that I disagree with younger kids going on trips, but I’m 22. Anyway, he continued his monologue by saying that he could easily change my name on my passport if I happened to, you know, get hitched while I’m over there. I was flattered at first by the assumption I was enough of a pretty young thing to attract all of the eligible Irish bachelors.

However, I am not the shallow, insensitive type to fall for a guy with an accent. It is a disgrace for women from America to fall in love with men they don’t know just because they’re from a foreign country. Yes, I’ve just described hundreds of harlequin romances, and every hopeless romantic girl’s dream. I just can’t see it happening. For me, going to a new place is fantastic, but it truly takes longer to know and love someone.

As much as any young woman would be swayed with a drink or two and a crooning Irishman: I have a prince charming already, so hitching a foreign guy would be a waste of a perfectly good relationship right here at home.  Too many women make rash decisions with their fleeting emotions, regretting them soon after. It is easy to feel like you fall in love, but the lasting flame of a strong relationship will overpower the allure of a foreign country. I wish all of the single ladies good luck with their dream to make P.S. I love you come to life, but there is a comfort knowing I will have a devoted man that I know to come home to after my trip is over.

So, the first step in my preparations has been completed. I await the arrival of my passport in a few weeks in addition to saving necessary money for the plane ticket, and the trip. The excitement grows with every mention of Ireland, the writers, and the places we will see. It is the epitome of my life so far, and I will be glowing as I reach the most beautiful place in the world (in my mind).

Dublin, Ireland will be beautiful no matter what anyone says and I'm not even there yet!

Now I must get back to my paper, which is due two days before St. Patrick’s Day.

Happy reading and writing all!


Filed under Breaking News

The Gathering Week One

Well, the first book I have to read for my residency with acclaimed western writer, Jane Boyer (Candia Coleman) is The Gathering by Anne Enright. Now you must be thinking, what is a western writer doing assigning an Irish writer to a bunch of first years (freshman so to speak)? The answer would be my upcoming trip to Dublin, Ireland in June. Why Anne Enright? Because she could very well be there during the residency and she is a fantastic example of Irish writing.

The copy I'm currently reading looks like this 🙂

I’ve had some experience with Irish writing. Mostly James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, and William Trevor. My experience first came in a Irish Short Fiction class during my junior or senior year of my undergrad. It would have been an amazing class if it had not been at 8 o’clock in the morning three days a week. There is just something about 8 a.m. that makes the brain want to work less. It was interesting nonetheless and I expect my time in Ireland will be much better than sleepy mornings in the basement of the library.

Returning to the purpose of the post, I have spent the last few days starting Anne Enright’s book.  The book is set in Ireland and England, so far. To me, they are exotic enough that just the areas she describes excite me to read more. As much as I enjoy her use of vocabulary and detailed scenes, I force myself to slow down. Too frequently, readers forget how to read slow and simply skim over the words only processing half of them. My friends and family may think I’m a fast reader because I finish books quickly, but that is not the case. In fact, I would describe myself as a slow reader on purpose. I want to savor the moments of a book whether it is for school or for pleasure. Reading shouldn’t be a race to get to the end of the story. A book should be read at the pace that it’s written.

For example, Carrie by Stephen King, I read in one sitting or a few hours. It was relatively small for a Stephen King novel, but the fast paced nature of the story is what led me to read it quickly. The author somewhat dictates how fast or slow you read the book, but the story also does that.  For the books I’m required to read for school, though, I deliberately take my time to savor and analyze the book. As I have  learned from my first residency, there is a difference between reading as a reader and reader as a writer. I struggle automatically to differentiate the two while reading.

However, I’m not alone as it is a skill acquired with time and practice. It is easy to enjoy a story and read for pleasure. It is another to read from an academic point and analyze potential literature for archetypes and common themes. It is another point all together to read as a writer. It is completely different to read thinking about style, voice, and point of view. To understand how a writer wrote such a fantastic story from the inside is a task not easily handled. So, I have only delved 1/5 of the way through the world Enright has created.

I am following an Irish family as they suffer through one of many deaths. The main character, Veronica Hegarty, is suffering most from her brother’s suicide. Although, from the first few pages, their deranged mother seems to be suffering more than all of her remaining children combined. I think the casual nature that Enright brings in the dysfunction of the family appeals most to me. Everyone thinks they have the most dysfunctional family, until they look at the house next door or down the street. It is that familiarity that your family infuriates you (Veronica being the responsible one and having to take care of all the arrangements) and soothes you (hasn’t happened yet, but I hope it will) without you even realizing it. She depicts a playful relationships with the past and present of Veronica’s life in addition to an imaginative past of her grandparents’.

I am struck by how quintessential family can become in just a few chapters. It doesn’t have to relate at all to your own family because people always find similarities in the smallest things. It is simply the struggle of dealing with family and death that makes this book so easy to connect. Two elements that in one way or another shape every human being, every living creature on the planet. I look forward to each page, attempting to understand the bits of Irish culture embedded in the  story as well as the overall feeling of Enright as a writer. If I do have the chance to meet Enright, I will surely faint for the sheer fact that she is an acclaimed Irish writer. More importantly, I will again be in awe of those much more experienced and eloquent doing the most valuable thing in the world, writing.

So, I leave you reader to return to The Gathering and coincidentally my cup of Irish Breakfast tea. Hope you will check out this little piece of Irish life as I prepare to write a paper about it.


Filed under Idea of the Day

Inside the Life of A Grad Student

I have stated before that I am currently seeking my M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Carlow University. Pittsburgh is my setting for the next two years and it is an under rated place for writers.

My master’s program is unique because it is low residency in addition to studying abroad. It leaves me with a lot of time to write and amazing places to see. My first residency began almost a month ago and ended 11 intense days later. The low residency allows me to absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Eight hours of seminars, workshops, and guest speakers with little time to breathe. I learned so much I can’t even write down the enormous amounts of knowledge I have now. You might not think 11 days can teach you a lot, but when you get a group of energetic, lonely writers together knowledge flows like a fountain of wine. I can tell you that already I have made life long friends in under two weeks. It is astounding what can happen when you put people with a common interest in the same room.

As the residency came to a close, I felt sad knowing I would have to go out into the world alone and use my new knowledge to write. It was so comforting to share my ideas with people who truly cared about giving constructive comments to improve my work.

From the end of the residency until June, I have some assignments and a lot of writing to do. Hopefully, though, I can count on the comments from my readers on here to help me with my fiction and guide me until my next residency.  Tomorrow I will have to e-mail 10 pages of my fiction to my mentor and in another two weeks I will have to  prepare a critical essay from a book I’ve read. Seems pretty simple for a graduate program, huh? Well, the easy part may seem to be the lack of work. In reality, the freedom and self-motivation become the difficult parts. Lucky for me I am a page away from my assignment due tomorrow.

The book I will start to read is The Gathering by Anne Enright, which is fitting because in four months I will be getting on a plane to Dublin, Ireland. My next residency is at Trinity College in IRELAND?! Since I am not a well-traveled young woman, this trip will be the first of many adventures I will have the pleasure of taking. Thanks to Carlow’s required study abroad aspect of the program, I get to visit a country I have dreamed of seeing for my entire life.

Only 11 days of class, four books, four papers, and then  trip to Ireland. How can life get any better? Let me tell you, I am one lucky girl that I can spend my days writing my heart away and my nights comfortable in my bed dreaming of four leaf clovers and Irish pubs.

I truly am grateful for the opportunities given by this program and enjoy every second of my new life as a full-time writer. My friends, colleagues, and family get to read what I do every day and see the happiness writing can bring a person.

Besides, how can a writer not be happy with this library to look forward to?


Filed under Idea of the Day