I've been travelling the byways and highways for the last week. There have been moments of deep inhalations, with tears in my eyes at the beauty of it all, flashes of vexation at a country whose habits I've grown unused to and now find myself disliking and moments of complete understanding.

Something about returning to this all-too-familiar context helps me understand myself better. I've used the word "arbitrary" to describe how I sometimes feel in Toronto. There's no deep reason for me being there, no connection or love of my life binding me to that place. But, through being here, back in Ireland where I have all those connections and binds, I've come to understand a simple fact: I love my life in Toronto.

Maybe that's enough reason to be there. And looking for something external and objectively verifiable, constant through the vagaries of my moods and mini-crises is a pyrrhic kind of battle to fight with oneself. And so I'll leave you with that. I have another week here and I intend to drink deep from the cup, go slower than I did my first week. Wallow in the things here that soothe.

Have an amazing weekend!

Photo, my own. More here.

Ryan's Daughter

Many terrible movies have been made in and about Ireland. David Lean's 1970 Ryan's Daughter is far from the worst, but I have very mixed feelings about it and some of the performances. Still, when I happened to watch it recently, I loved the shots of Inch strand on the Dingle Penninsula in Kerry and of the countryside in general, the blue light and the sea spray that was in certain moments beautifully captured, like dust motes eddying across the screen.

Stills from Ryan's Daughter, 1970, Warner Bros.

Archive: A poem for Thursday

This is a repeat post of this poem. But it seems appropriate for today and is one of my favourites. The poem itself does exactly what it describes the weather and countryside doing; catches the heart off guard and blows it open. This is by Seamus Heaney.

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Mariona Gen

Layered cozy looks and a beautiful palette from Mariona Gen. I'm running out to buy some red lipstick!

Sunday best: In Wales

I'm in Wales!

In all honesty, I don't know what I'm really doing because I'm putting this together in advance. I can only hope I'm cavorting with some dashing Welsh lad in the Brecon Beacons.

The one and only audio book I own is a recording of Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood. It's magical; the perfect rolling, weaving cadence. You can listen to some of it here.

And I'll be listening too, while I feel the road move beneath me, or when I can't sleep at the B&B we end up at tonight. And hopefully I'll have photos to share with you later in the week.

But there will be times I put down the camera and just look. So I'll try to collect good words to share about those moments. And I'll find myself wishing you were here and that I could touch you on the arm. Then we would look in the same direction and wordlessly share it all.

Products: Vintage postcard via | Ravan dress from Toast | Ruby Rose necklace from Katie Diamond Jewelry | Pentax k1000 via | Maison Martin Margiela alpaca-blend cardigan from Net-a-Porter | Purdey Twin Strap Nubuck Boot from The London Trading Company | Falke tights


This weekend, I'm gallivanting around the Irish countryside. The white-washed cottage is one of the most touristy of touristy images of Ireland. But they really are quite lovely and I'm as susceptible to their charms as the next person. Croaghacullion is in Donegal (I'll be at the other end of the island) and available for rent through the same company as this Welsh cottage that I blogged about before.

From Wexford, I'll be hopping on a ferry to Wales. And you know what they have in Wales?! Boys with Welsh accents. Hooray!

Have a great weekend!

Archive: A poem for Thursday

The National Library of Ireland has an amazing virtual Yeats exhibition. The NYT wrote a wonderful article and has videos too. Below is my favourite Yeats poem (I love the word "chaunting") though I like this one too.

The Sorrow of Love
The quarrel of the sparrow in the eaves,
The full round moon and the star-laden sky,
And the loud song of the ever-singing leaves,
Had hid away earth's old and weary cry.

And then you came with those red mournful lips,
And with you came the whole of the world's tears,
And all the sorrows of her labouring ships,
And all the burden of her myriad years.

And now the sparrows warring in the eaves,
The curd-pale moon, the white stars in the sky,
And the loud chaunting of the unquiet leaves,
Are shaken with earth's old and weary cry.

Ontario fall to Irish autumn

Today I go home.

Lately, I've drawn a lot of inspiration from fall in Ontario. It always pierces my imagination. The vividness of it startles my eyes. And the northern light seems designed to perfectly showcase fall's glow. The clear blue of it backlights those warm tones to give a perfect blend of chilly warmth. And you shudder and feel invigorated and kick leaves.

It's my favourite time in this province. I normally close my eyes and let it seep into my lids. I wrap it up inside of me, a glowing nugget of amber to hold onto for the cold months ahead. This year, I've been participating more in it. I've been adding to the golds and oranges, wearing colours I never wear, buying flowers in rusted hues.

Tomorrow, I'll wake up in my land of mist. And I love its murk too. The air hangs with salt and sea and everything sweet that rises up from sodden earth. I feel it all move through me and I feel it inside me too and I understand who I am in better. And the palette of an Irish autumn is full of shades of grey and green and blue, layer upon layer of it, shrouded in gentle veils.

A friend once told me that once you live somewhere else, you become fragmented. And you can't unify yourself once that happens. You've just got to understand what's been done and decide where you want to live out your fragmented life. In autumn, that's all okay with me. Because I feel like I have two of the very best options.

And some people search their whole life for one home and never find it, that place where they want to plant their flag and stay. And sometimes (often) I feel that way too. I read Larkin's lines
"No, I have never found
The place where I could say
This is my proper ground,
Here I shall stay;
Nor met that special one
Who has an instant claim
On everything I own
Down to my name;"
...and I feel in my bones that this is my lot too, that this is the sadness people sometimes see in my eyes.

But something about autumn soothes it all out of me. In this season, I have found my proper ground and I don't need to search for anything else. Because when you have two versions of perfection, what else would you be looking for?

All paintings by Rosemary Carr (previously blogged about here) via Kenny Gallery, specifically 1 | 2 | 3
Products 1: Cardigan | Sweater | Scarf | Purse | Necklace | Cushion | Shoes | Nail Polish | Armchair
Products 2: Scarf | Clutch | Sweater | Sweater | Trousers | Skirt | Shoes | Earrings | Shoes
Products 3: Dress | Beret | Cardigan | Sweater | Dress | Necklace | Gloves | Trousers

Frances Palmer

Every so often, I wander over to Frances Palmer's website just to spend some time drinking in her beautiful creations. I always leave promising myself that the next time I do something really good and deserve a treat, it will come from her shop.

Products shown: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Three of a kind

Sunday best: Bursting into fall

It's been an errand-running weekend.

I finally joined the ranks of adult travelers and bought myself some luggage with wheels. I have very mixed feelings about this. It's funny the things I have clung to from my youth. My silly backpack was one. Even the fact I'm about to tell you how unpractical it had become galls me in a way.

On a conflict-free note, I bought myself some new sunglasses too and a book to read on the plane. I started reading it over yesterday's coffee and am in love. Sebastian Barry can break your heart in a paragraph and I'm not exaggerating in the slightest.

And the weekend weather was perfection. I felt myself springing about, breaking into little runs to pass dawdling shoppers. And I started and stopped, bursting with frenetic activity one way, then another. I know I need to settle down and go in a straight line, but I'm too excited.

Now the weather really feels like fall, not just a cooler summer day. And the heat has come on in my building, sending dust motes up into the air, swirling eddies that get caught in the sunlight. And I can reach for a scarf and even some boots in the mornings.

And so, just like that, our world has burst into fall.

Products: Raindrop beret from Coterie | YSL mascara from Sephora | J Brand 814 jeans from Net-a-Porter | Brick House from Deborah Lippmann | Fleur d'Oranger from Le Labo | Wool sweater tee from L.L. Bean Signature | Belstaff Barkmaster leather boots from Net-a-Porter | Ruby rose necklace from Katie Diamond Jewelry | Nina Navajo Tote from Augustina


No matter what happens today, it's Friday! It's been a derby of a week. I frantically galloped my way through it, not taking in much of the blur around me. I'm trying to will myself to feel less harried this weekend, even though I have lots of pesky errands to run.

I suppose, in the end, it's good I've been so busy because my trip home is so close now I can almost taste the salt air. And the closer it's got, the more my need for it has grown. It seems unfathomable that I'll be there so soon.

Around the blogs, this post on Pennyweight struck me as beautiful in every good way. And even though I quit my own Tumblr a long while ago, I really like Siubhan's, especially Girls on Floral. And here's something my best friend wrote that I thought was quite lovely.

This weekend, I'm going to crack into one of these books to set myself up for a good read over the Atlantic. And I'll dream about looking down and seeing nothing but blue and feeling I can breathe again.

Photo, my own. More here.

Craving comfort

Yesterday was a hard day. I came home from the office feeling battered about, but too upset to let it all go. I wanted to surround myself in all those comforting things, to pull on my favourite socks and softest pyjamas and just be numb from it. Instead, I went to yoga.

I barely got through the class but was glad I went. I've been going a lot lately. I can't say it always helps, but it often does. When I finally got home, I did pull on those pyjamas and socks. But it was with less numbness and more softness. I think it's better to take in comfort gently than in desperate need.

Products: Grilled cheese | Pyjamas |
Mug | Tea | Socks

Three of a kind

3. The Female Artists (1887) | Charles Boom, via The Athenaeum

Inspiring women: Constance Markievicz

When I was very little, my parents took me to visit Lissadell house in Sligo. It was still privately owned by the Markievicz family and, it was the Countess' niece, I think, who gave us the tour. My parents thought that was really something, I remember.

When we got to the Gallery, she asked if any of us played piano and Mum said I did, which was a shame because I was a mediocre student. Next thing you know I was sitting at the 1820 walnut grand piano. To this day I don't know why I picked Greensleeves to play.

And it's easier to tell you my story of minor mortification than to explain why I find Countess Markiewicz inspiring. Because talking about Irish freedom fighters has taken on a different hue in adulthood. And in childhood our curriculum gave us a simplified version of imperialistic enemies and beleaguered, plucky countrymen. And we shook our heads in silent reverence at their acts.

All this I face each time I go home, trying to match it all up; to reconcile critical thinking with that fundamental pride. But let me tell you this much: Constance Markievicz was sentenced to death for her part in the Rising, commuted to life imprisonment because of her sex, much to her chagrin. And she was the first woman to be elected to Westminster Parliament in London, where she refused to take her seat, as well as the first to be elected to and serve in Dáil Eireann in 1919.

And I love her. In the way you do when you brush up against something heroic when you're very young. In the way you notice your Dad look pointedly at you as a story is being told because he wants some of it to rub off on you, so you grow up fierce and strong and full of conviction. And she was all that to me then.

Websites: Lissadell House & Constance Markievicz
Images via Lissadell House


A beautiful collection from Italian company Masnada. I adore the styling and atmosphere of their lookbook.

Three of a kind

Book report: The Anthologist

The Anthologist is one of the most original and gripping of novels I've recently read. I can always forgive a story where not much happens. (Really, that's my favourite kind of story.) But a story that starts and restarts a discussion about poetry while its author dallies in the torpor of his daily life hardly sells itself as an exciting premise.

Paul Chowder is the charismatic hero of The Anthologist. He makes many suggestions about how we might engage poems, how we might rethink our understanding of rhyming schemes and he calls out lines and words with sincere and infectious fervor. He's the kind of guy I love to talk to, who I take with a pinch of salt, but also feel is a vast font of knowledge. He feels familiar and fallible.

But he struggles with life just as much as the rest of us. He'd miss the mouse that lives in the kitchen if it went away. He seems to keep cutting his fingers. He sometimes wishes he was a canoe. And he wonders "...what it must be like to be part of something ongoingly huge like a number-one sitcom or part of a magazine when it's in its golden moment—like The New Yorker in the thirties—or a fashionable restaurant of a hit musical. Something that everyone wants to think about at the same time. Some people have that privilege. Most don't. And the ones who do are no more content than I am."

There's bathos too. Chowder is plucky, self-deprecating. He gives us little reason to hope for him or his project. But he's disarming so this doesn't aggravate in the usual way. And the transitions between his poetic reflection and plain talk are astonishingly good, themselves poetic.

The quiet tragedy of the book is that in struggling to complete the introduction for his poetry anthology, Chowder's ardent ramblings convey more passion for poetry and the lives of poets than any dried-up barnacle of an anthology introduction could. I looked up more poetry reading this book than I've been inspired to in a long time. And that's what makes it, in the end, such an uplifting read.

New at Coterie!

When I started dreaming about Coterie, I thought not only of stocking pieces I knew and loved but also having a hand in some original creations. I'm lucky to know some amazingly talented creators. Laura of Newedist is a dear friend and I knew I wanted to work with her in some way from the outset.

Laura began working on some design prototypes way back in the Spring and we went back and forth honing the designs, the shape, the colours. I surprised myself (and, I think, Laura) by reaching for the mustard shade when we went yarn shopping. It has an earthy undertone to me that reminds me of Fall leaves. Plus, I love this colour alongside the other ones we selected, which are more typical of my palette.

It was important to both of us that the wool be soft to wear (I'm pretty sensitive to scratchy wool and have no issues with this 50% Alpaca, 50% wool blend). It was also important that the pieces be, as much as possible, genuinely "one size fit all". As such, Laura designed these Newedist pieces to have enough gentle give that they hold their shape and structure without being tight or restrictive.

I hope this is the first of many exciting collaborations as Coterie grows!

Shop for these new pieces here!


After a grim, grey start to September, we finally had some perfect fall days over the weekend. I was in heaven. Literally walking down my street feeling love in my heart for the city. It happens every autumn, I feel so at home in this season.

And while I loved summer this year, summer love is more like a crush; heady and a little panicked. A sense of fleetingness and finiteness saturating its days. Of course, autumn is no less fleeting, but something about its days feels more grounded. More true.

My love of autumn is obvious even to me in the guest post I pulled together for Joanna of Simple Blueprint. My feelings for Canada's Group of Seven painters aren't normally ebullient, but I like them best in autumn. Maybe it's the season during which I finally, really get this province. And maybe, for a moment, I get them too.

Click here to see the full post & find credits for the images above.


Tiring September days, restless September nights. Waking up to a pitch dark room, thinking it can't possibly be time to get up. Autumn throws down its gauntlet to early birds.

There are stories untold. About what I'm thinking and all that's been happening here. But the date renders everything I might say fatuous, self-absorbed. A pause this weekend.

And then, on Monday, we'll carry on.

Three of a kind

2. A Pot from Rouen (1910) by Pierre Bonnard, via


I try not to be too consumed with product lust here, at least not all the time. But there is something completely fun about a flight-of-fantasy wishlist! So, it was with complete exuberant abandon that I compiled this "Wanted" list over on Pennyweight.

A huge thank you Elise for having me! I had so much fun!

Dining: Irish cheese & brown bread

I knew I was in trouble when I found myself browsing Cais, the Irish Cheesemakers website at 1am on Sunday night. Knowing that I'll be in Ireland soon has unleashed all kinds of cravings I must otherwise repress.

"Smoked Gubbeen!" I randomly thought in the middle of the day. And that was it. Next thing it's 1am and I'm plotting cheesemaker tours of Ireland. I'm not sure how much of this my parents will go along with, but any Flanagan worth their salt can get behind a cheese detour. I'm going to get so fat.

Products: Red Onion Marmalade | Cashel Blue cheese | Ardrahan cheese 
| Smoked Gubbeen cheese | Brown bread recipe from 101 Cookbooks |Walnut slab | Romo Fabric | Herb bouquet via | Carrigaline cheese | Bandon Vale Vintage cheese

Three of a kind

Margaret Howell

I've come to fully understand that I don't really care about fashion. But I do care about style and craftsmanship. I care about how things are built and the stories behind them. Sometimes this overlaps with following fashion - some fashionable people care about those things too. But it's important for me to realize the difference: In the fashion world, I don't fit in. I don't even care to try. But in the aesthetics of living, I'm a live-it, breathe-it girl. Aesthetics and eudaimonia are inseparable for me.

I always get the feeling Margaret Howell feels the same way. I could be wrong, but she seems a designer who cares in great detail about style and not one iota about fashion. And while I don't plan on shopping too much when I go on holidays, I am very, very excited to take in the Fall Margaret Howell collection.


I couldn't help but think of Cubist paintings as I've been seeing all the colour-blocking and asymmetry in this season's collections. Braque and Picasso were the founders of analytical cubism, but their palettes were very muddy, monochromatic, airless. I found better corollaries in the paintings of Juan Gris, with his brighter palette.

Cubism is mostly viewed as an important stepping stone towards abstraction. Light crept back in quickly, followed by movement and even aural allusions. Those cubist planes hurtled their creators towards further abstraction. So, we mostly think of Cubism now only in the context of all that follows. But how exciting it must have been! Such an idea - throwing out one-point perspective; leveling everything onto the same plane, not trying to hide the canvas.

Products: Sweater | Dress | Sweater | Scarf | Dress | Shoe | Cuff | Dress | Necklace | Scarf | Bra | Shoe
Painting: Bottles and Knife (1911-12) by Juan Gris,

Products: Sweater dress | Sweater | Sweater | Clutch | Boot | Cuff | Clutch | Dress
Painting: The Guitar (1918) by Juan Gris, via

Sunday best: Invisible threads through time

It's university I think of when I think of "back to school". Buying those first philosophy books at Hodges Figgis; Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke and Hume. Joining societies during Fresher's week and drinking away nights in the Buttery. I remember the feeling of walking through Front Arch those September mornings and the evenings spent on the top floor of the Berkeley Library. And, inevitably, memories of falling in love.

I try not to fall prey to nostalgia or regret. Those years were what they were. There was wonder and heartbreak, discovery and angst. There's still a lot of that, but the flavour is more full-bodied now. And the years stretch and meander without the structure of Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. These days, we look to the weather for signs of change, we see the sun fall in the sky, the angle of light more oblique. No bells are rung to call each day to a close.

And so we set our own terms. Some of us by the seasons and some of us by our work calendar. Some live in the granularity of the day, scheduling work and play, meetings and dinner dates. Whatever the measure of it, we chart our progress through time. Without time, we skulk around the edges in the dark. And this must be important and primal, because when people first got down to anything, charting the passing of time was high on their list.

"Time" was my first lecture at university. Aristotelian, Bergsonian, Newtonian concepts of time. I'm still friends with the professor who taught that class. We write each other letters and exchange articles and postcards of artwork we like. I'll see him when I go home later in the month and for a spell that will be the invisible thread I draw through time: My first philosophy lecture linked to that moment, when we're sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant.

And what he didn't tell us in that lecture was that time folds. And you find yourself overlaying the present with a moment from the past. And your experience of things builds in strange ways and those folds become more intricate. We bob and weave, duck and dive through it. There are moments when we're invisible to ourselves and others when we're in many moments at once. And all the time we're edging forward, but it's slow and fast at once. We're so impatient we don't see how steadily we're hurtling through it, using it all up.

Products: Notebook from Coterie | Thakoon Knit Pullover from La Garconne | J Brand Lovestory corduroy from Net-a-Porter | Arceau watch from Hermes | Paperback cologne from Coterie | The Classic from Cambridge Satchel | Aristotle via | High Heel Moccasins from A.P.C.


A friend was telling me this week what strange pleasure she derives from ripping out her knitting and starting over. It's so easy to become entrenched in doing something just because you've done a certain amount already. But there's a strange elation in liberating yourself from it when you just know it's not working; something victorious about opting out and starting over. Because you know it's going to be better.

But this is at odds with the continual multitasking routine most of us juggle. I find myself wishing instead for prolonged concentration. I remember those darkroom days when I worked on a single print for hours, dodging and burning for a second's difference and weighing the results. And I think about Christopher Pratt; a documentary where he burned his prints because they weren't good enough, which seemed like a tragedy and I thought, I would take his rejects! But he knew better.

Reading the current Acne Paper, I found myself envious of the traditional trades written about because they implied an inherent slowness. And I realized that a lot of the businesses, products, artwork I love have an implied tempo too. And that tempo is steady but slow. And all this week, I've rejected nearly everything I've written. I've made myself rewrite and edit much more than usual. I've read everything out loud and found flaws in the cadence and toiled over words and syllables for hours. And I'm really into it.

And I feel like my industry, digital media, doesn't leave much room for this studied care. We publish stories and fix them on the spot, we get things out the door, we glorify the go-go-go. And that's all fine. But, in my own time, in my own writing and reading and even conversations, I want to let go of that and live in this other rhythm. It's my heartbeat when I'm sitting in a coffee shop and look up from a book, pausing to take an idea. It's the rhythm when I read Yeats out loud, or walk with gentle purpose. It's the tide coming in, fat rain falling. It's the sand through my fingers and the stone I suck on. It's the silence between the beats and the beats themselves.

That's what I'll be doing this weekend.


Image, my own. More here.

Autumn goals

The change of seasons doesn't at all seem slow or uncertain this year. This autumn, I want to drink in every falling leaf and golden ray of light. And I'm already torn between the long-awaited place I'm going to and here, where autumn is the most beautiful season. I wonder if that's a mistake I shouldn't repeat; trying to be in two places at once. Or if I'll get enough of both and be satisfied.

And there are goals, of course, because we bloggers can't seem to change seasons without them. Especially the later seasons, when you start to feel the wind-up of the year and the time for something profound running out. Growing dread that this too will be just another year of coasting. But then I go to make a list of goals and it's hard to make bullet points hold what I mean.

Taking good photographs might be a goal, but how to explain the feeling I want to capture? Only that I want it to be something about land and place, home and age, some perfectly finite sense of moment and murk mixed with yellow autumnal light.

And baking apple pie is one too. Sharing it with friends makes it even better. Hell, I'll throw a harvest feast. This is something we can all get behind. The future blog post writes itself. But, instead leave it all undocumented and let the idea of it hang loose and unstyled. Better still, let it be completely unblogworthy.

And there are goals even more banal: Lose weight, exercise and save money. Old faithfuls. And in the next lines a list of things to spend money on. Boots and something woolly, most likely, but also something for the home. Don't forget to throw in something with a little more gusto. Books! Perfect.

Still something missing. Maybe I should add wanting to really look at my parents when I go home. To notice their hands and eyes especially. And ask questions about family history I don't have straight. But also mention the quiet I look forward to, sitting in the backseat while Dad drives, listening to music while they bicker about directions and anecdotes they probably made up anyway.

But something with more marrow still — a confession: I spend my time lately wishing for a quiet refuge to write from. Wishing sometimes I did not always have to interact. And at night I'd like to just climb into bed and have somebody kiss and wrap their arms around me. But I dread all the talk that goes with that, all the figuring out the ways we fit together and when it's okay not to. And that's the difficulty with relationships for me (not just the romantic ones). I want it all to be easily unsaid. But it never gets to be like that.

And more than a person, I dream of that place, with mossy stones and improbable flowers. It's slightly drab but in all the lovely ways, smells of rotting leaves and turned earth and wet stone. This place I long for haunts me and I search for it without knowing how to strike forth, looking for signs of something not arbitrary. And in my dreams it's there too, both familiar and elusive. But now my list is wandering off course...

This is the problem with goals: It feels all wrong to try and parse out dreams into bullet points. And what about leaving room for the unexpected? Because maybe that's where the magic's really at. Let it be just that.

Three of a kind