Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax

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It may be winter and it may be wet and cold and windy outside but when I think about relaxation I always think of the beach.

Just sitting on a bench or the sand, my bare feet tucked into the sand listing to the lapping of waves, tasting taste the sea salt on my lips,feeling the wind ruffle my hair and the sun on my face. Or maybe walking with my feet in the cold ocean my eyes on the horizon or looking for shells hidden in the sand.

But at this time of year my walks on the beach are brisk, my shoes water tight and my scarf is pulled up above my ears. So for now I will just smile at the knowledge that there will be warmer days again and look forward to my first day relaxing on the beach again.

benches

It’s not this time of the year without

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‘Tis the season to be jolly, but for me ’tis also the season of lights. So while the days grew shorter and the darkness settles in earlier and earlier lights light up the city and turns it into a magical place.

Dublin by night

Dublin by night, a rare wind still one at that

bright flowers and dark November mornings

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For the last week or so I have been watching my Schulumbergera (Christmas cactus or winter cactus) sprout buds. first they were pale pink that  deepened as the bud grew. And yesterday – finally- most of the buds exploded into a glorious display of magenta coloured blossoms.

The plant sits on the windowsill by the stairs and is one of the first things I see when I get up in the mornings. Now a riot of colour cheers up my cold, dark November mornings.

Growing up my mum always had Schulumbergera  somewhere in the house. The one I remember most was in the corner of our dinning room. So in most of my grown-up homes I too have had a Schulumbergera of my own. Sometimes they haven’t been very happy and have denied me their blossoms but for the last few years the one on my windowsill seems to be very happy and blossoms a few times a year.

So as time is counting down until Christmas (a little over four weeks left) and the days are becoming darker I think I will just take pleasure in my Christmas cactus and remind myself that sometimes all we need is a little bit of colour to brighten up our days

flowers_schulumbergera-truncata_wintercactusschulumbergera-truncata-christmascactus-adventscactus

happy belated birthday to me

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This year my birthday fell on a Wednesday – right in the middle of a very busy week. It was an odd day, no letters to open, no gift to unwrap, just a few bings of my phone wishing me a ‘happy birthday’ via text. So as I walked into work I realised that I didn’t feel birhday-y at all – and not even in a bad way, it just all felt very grown-up and matter of fact.

My one treat of the day was free tickets to go to the preview screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A little bit of magic and enchantment to excite the child within, ending the day on a much less adult note.

When I arrived home I found the post had been there and had left me a notice to come an pick up what didn’t fit through the letter-box, which is exactly what I did late on Friday afternoon when I had the time.

So yesterday morning I celebrated my birthday a few days late, unwrapped the thoughtful gifts that had arrived in the post. I sat surrounded by love in the form of cards and wrapping paper, each word and surprise making me feel special.

When my neighbour showed up, a song on her lips and a cupcake in her hands, I couldn’t help but notice the giddy feeling rising up inside me and I couldn’t help but think that I’m not so grown-up after all.

So maybe you’re never to old for birthday surprises but sometimes you just have to wait until all the grow-up tasks are done to be able to enjoy it. And even if it was  a few days late I really enjoyed this years birthday and took the time to thoroughly enjoy it.

a treat brought over by neigbours accompanied by a song

a treat brought over by neigbours accompanied by a song

some gifts arrived in the post

some gifts arrived in the post

Weekly Photo Challenge: Magic

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A few years ago a friend and I went on a spontaneous trip to Egypt, we literally booked it on Monday and flew out on Thursday. No preparation, no idea what was in store for us and no time to make any plans.

We landed in the middle of the night in Luxor and were herded off to our waiting boat in a flurry of hand-gestures. But as soon as we set foot on board a magical trip began. The trip took us from Luxor to Aswan, docking along the way to allow us to visit all the ancient temples.

We dipped in and out of history, our wonderful guide telling us about the stories of old and explaining the magic of the ancient Egyptian world, and experienced modern Egyptian life on the banks and bazaars. But for the most magical moments were all spent on board the boats, the cruise ship we slept on (we were upgraded to a wonderful suite with french windows opening out onto the Nile) and the Felucca (a small sailing boat) that took us to the beach were we swam in the Nile.

Maybe it was the hot sun shimmering on the Nile and the light breeze you could only feel while on the water, or maybe it was the gentle lapping of the waves against the hull of the boat or maybe it was just the sense of otherness that seemed to open up a door into a truly magical world.

But what ever it was when ever I think of Egypt and all the Pharaohs and temples I can’t help but but feel a little bit nostalgic about the trip my friend and I took. It was a break, in the truest sense of the word, from our everyday life, a break from reality, a break from what you’ve come to expect, a break from looking at the clock and a break from who you think you are. A truly magical journey.

the Nile is a magical place - old and new melt into one and something magical is in the air

the Nile is a magical place – old and new melt into one and something magical is in the air – especially on board a felucca

#Huaweisnapys fails to inspire

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After the wonderful Irish Blog Awards back in September I had high hopes for the #Huaweisnapys (Independent Awards for the Instagram Community) last night. Sadly the event didn’t live up to its promise as it was all a bit of a let down.

Luckily I won some free tickets so I wasn’t put out for having to pay in and not get much out of it but for all of those who did, even the shortlisted Instagrammers had to pay in, I can’t help but feel a little annoyed.

The award ceremony was cold, no attempt was made to engage with those in the room – most of whom were bloggers, snapchatters, integrammers – and was mainly advertising how great the Huawei phone is. The massive screen in the Mansion House wasn’t utilized to benefit those who were shortlisted and the Instagram photos that won never really got a chance to be seen. But Huawei was everywhere, blocking everything else with it’s blockbuster-eque grandiosity. And it really wouldn’t have been difficult to have a live tweet run down the side of the screen, have a few competitions to keep people engaged, and basically just be generous with space and time to allow those who won to shine – after all the event was meant to be all about them.

The MC of the night was Irish actress/comedian Deirdre O’Kane who tried her best to get a bit of atmosphere going, but the mood was off from the get go. This didn’t really change thorough the awards, and the choice of having Vouge Williams DJ (not my taste in music but I was told she did a good job) before the Spring Breaks came on didn’t help either as many just left once the awards were handed out. By the time the band- and I presume they were meant to be the highlight of the night – came on the evening had petered out, more than half had left. While they did their best to get people up and dancing room was to empty by then to really lift the spirits.

Another thing that was a bit curios was how stingy Huawei was with the free drink. Of course there was no expectation of a free bar (which seemingly the VIPs – and who they were I do not know as the Instegrammers sat in the main room and not on the balcony- did have) but it would have been nice if they had provided at least one glass of bubbly for each guest – instead every now and then only a few trays made it out into the main room, maybe enough for a third of the audience, causing odd surges of activity and lots of unhappy, left-out looks on many of the audiences faces.

And while of course you can’t expect a goodie bag it would have been nice to get one, especially since the event was sponsored by so many big names and Huawei kept banging on about how much their market shares have grown and how well they are doing. Maybe that was why so many left so early with a dissatisfied look on their faces.

Over all the #Huaweisnapys really just felt like a massive marketing event for a product that may be great but showed little to no interest in connecting with those in the room – in my books a failed event that didn’t showcase how great many Instagram photos are and was more interested promoting product instead of talent.

the intermission entertainment was a stunning light show

the intermission entertainment was a stunning light show

the best bit of the night: Spring Breaks

the best bit of the night 80s music with Spring Breaks

 

another brick in the wall

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Walking home the other day I saw something out of the corner of my eye and stopped to take a closer look. It was an unassuming line of graffiti stenciled onto the quay wall, just a little way off the ground, maybe at thigh level. It read: Don’t be another brick in the wall. First it made me smile and then it made me think.

I looked around and saw how most of the people walking across the bridge or down the quays were engrossed in their phones, faces tilted downwards, eyes glued to the screens, some were wearing headphones, others just a faraway look.

As I walked away, Pink Floyd the soundtrack in my head,  I couldn’t help but wonder what the graffiti artist meant, was it just a little joke about walls and bricks or was he trying to tell passersby to not build walls around themselves that detach them from reality, or to not become a brick in someone else’s wall but to become an active part in their lives.

However the artist meant it I did feel that the words were somehow hidden in plain sight – like a secret I was let in on just because I stopped and looked and didn’t just walk by, my eyes fixed on my phone. I wondered how many others had spotted it, how many would or would it be just another neglected piece of graffiti that, unnoticed, would wash away in time.

To me it was just a simple reminder that the world around me is so much more interesting and surprising than anything I could find in my phone with the added bonus that it is real, not just a fictional online world that in the end is often too fast-paced to make any long-lasting impact.

walking by and made to think

walking by and made to think

from online to paper

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After spending my Saturday in the world of blogging my Sunday afternoon was filled with the written word on paper. The Dublin Book Festival was hosting the event Magazines and their Makers, a session with editors and publishers of five of the leading literary magazines in Ireland.

As an avid reader and an attempting writer it was interesting to hear from those who take the chance and publish less mainstream works. It seems that Ireland is experiencing somewhat of a ‘golden-age’ of literary journals and magazines as over the past few years several new ones have joined the more established names.

Most of the magazines on the panel, like Gorse, Crannog, Cyphers and Winter Pages, all focus on fiction writing, poetry and other forms of artistic collaborations The Dublin Review also focuses on non-fiction writing in the form of essays, reportage, travel writing and memoir writing. 

When asked why choose print over online all the panel seemed to be of one mind. They expressed their love for the published form as an object, something tangible and long-lasting. They spoke about how our ‘instant age’ has the desire to ‘slow down’ and ‘concentrate’ on what is in our hands.

And while all are more or less are classified as magazines they saw their literary collections as ‘artisanal’, nothing that would be quickly disposed of but would be an item to collect and take pleasure in time and time again. Of course each magazine is of its time, but like a time capsule it conserves it and gives insight into the years gone by.

Another thing that all of the editors and publishers on the panel agreed on was that the magazines were not created for the writers but for the readers. That no matter what form they decided on, what pieces they chose for publication, how well constructed something is or how experimental a writer goes, if the reader isn’t included, isn’t able to partake it will not work.

All in all it was refreshing to experience people who invest so much time and effort into the literary form even if financial success is very unlikely.  There truly is something inspiring about people who do things because they love it.

the power of words the force behind this train

the power of words the force behind this train

a book turned into sculpture, the words brought to life

a book turned into sculpture, the words brought to life

#bloggerconfl2g and goodie bags

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Yesterday was the Irish Blogger conference and as I sit here munching my Mars bar (courtesy of the Meaghers Pharmacy to remind us how to pronounce their name) I can’t help but contemplate all that was said.

With a long list of speakers it was clear that no everyone was going to be to my taste, especially those who spent most of their time self-promoting their wonderfulness, I was surprised how impressed I was with others.

The #TwitterForBloggers and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) masterclasses were extremely informative, helpful and well presented in easy to follow language. Even the Legal Guide for Blogging was succinct and useful.

But the two speakers that stood out for me were Oonagh O’Hagen, MD Meaghers Pharmacy, and Anne-Marie Tomchak, UK Editor Mashable. Both of these women spoke with passion and enthusiasm, were authentic and clearly are both very hard-workers. Their words were inspiring, proof that having a vision, a goal is a good thing and even if  it takes a few risks and a lot of guts, hard work will pay off. They weren’t afraid to admit to making mistakes and showed that it’s what you learn from them that makes you succeed. It was just refreshing to listen to women who ‘had made it’ in their own rights and not because they were beautiful (which they were) or because they had somehow achieved some vague celebrity for the sake of just being known, but because they believed in themselves and in what they were doing and were willing to put in the hard graft.

The biggest let down was Johnny Ward, the creator of blog OneStep4Ward. I enjoyed his unpolished presence, his enthusiastic presentation and obvious enjoyment of what he does (how can one not when traveling the world and making money doing so?). But somehow I found it distasteful the way he was just blatantly making money for the sake of making money. He said he had given up working for others, that 9-5 grind,  as he found it soul destroying and encouraged everyone to do the same, but he now owns 200 blogs and employs people to write for them. He basically has become the CEO at the top of the pyramid he claims to hate.He even admitted to breaking copy right laws in the past and didn’t seem to find it a bad thing, and now he told me he relies on ‘free stock images’.  And when I asked him if those who write for him know what they are writing about he said ‘they write what they are paid to write’ going against the grain of authenticity, personality and strong content. It just made me wonder if his success isn’t, at least partially built, on the backs of others.

However I thoroughly enjoyed the day, met wonderful people, lernt lots of things and enjoyed being in the company of so many others, who like me, enjoy the world of blogging. And when I got hope I unpacked my wonderful goodie bags (yes plural) and was thrilled with what I found inside. I was most excited about the transportable phone-charger from Snap Printing and a JustEat coupon. I even won a pretty travel electric toothbrush by Sonic Chic (courtesy of Life2good).

But it was the Meaghers Pharmacy‘s generous gift-box that was the highlight for me. Filled with beautifully wrapped goodies it was a little bit like an early birthday surprise. And while I may not be big into make-up I am really looking forwrad to trying out some of the lotions I found. Especially the Chocolate Whip body lotion looks like it is perfect for my delicate skin.

Meaghers gift-box - an unexpected and generous gift

Meaghers gift-box – an unexpected and generous gift

everything wrapped with care in the Meaghers colours

everything wrapped with care in the Meaghers colours

handpicked goodies from Meaghers, can't wait to try them out

handpicked goodies from Meaghers, can’t wait to try them out

Weekly Photo Challenge: tiny

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While traveling I often find myself looking up at windows, gutters, roofs and lights and often I find a kinds of beauty just above my gaze. On one of my trips, to St Petersburg a few years ago, I spotted these tiny musician jamming atop a light fitting. I loved the patina of the bronze miniature and only wished that I had been able to hear what tune they were playing.

tiny musicians

tiny musicians