DublinGetting to Dublin from London is not a big deal. The flight is a smidge over an hour and, if you’re lucky, ends with a piece of chocolate. It’s easy enough that a surprising number of people work in London during the week for the stronger economic opportunities and commute back to Dublin on weekends.

All of that is good. Because when you ask the Cope girls what was their favorite thing about our 48 hours in Dublin, they both say, “The pool!”  Their favorite thing was the indoor hotel pool. They mentioned that to my sister over a not-even-spotty FaceTime call, and she was like, “Wait, you went to Liverpool? I thought it was Dublin.” Kids. They’re super-satisfying.

Trinity College Campus Diptych | Umami GirlThe middle-aged among us thought the pool was fine, but we especially liked walking around the Trinity College campus — including the stunning library, pictured here — and the surrounding Temple Bar neighborhood, which is full of fun shops and restaurants. By the way, I’m breaking in this whole “middle-aged” situation right now by secretly using the term ironically even though it’s totally accurate. I’m 37 and only a few weeks ago realized that 37 times two is not, in fact, 60. Doubling really makes time fly. There’s a terrible pun about doublin’ somewhere in this conversation, but because I’m only ironically middle-aged, I’m not gonna use it. See how young we all still are? View full post »

London Flat Dining Area | Umami Girl

Back in the salad days of August, 2011, I introduced you to our new schtick in London and promised to get back to you with a little peek into our home. Well! Hello from June, 2014. I can’t say we’re prompt, but we’re here, and that’s something.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, which means I can still hear the echo of our weekly housecleaner closing the door behind her, which means this place is as decent as she’ll ever be. Other than that, I haven’t staged a thing. See, by way of example, that piece of nose-blown toilet paper on the floor by my kid’s feet, and the way she’s sitting there on her sick day staring blankly into an iPad while eating a lunch I didn’t even make.

I’m sure the commenters on some of those high-rollin’ interior design websites would have a thing or two to say about an unstaged photo shoot (half against, half in favor, naturally). But luckily you guys are awesome and will not complain, right? You won’t say, for example, what the heck is up with all the decorative animals everywhere? I’m just noticing that right now through your eyes, actually. I’m as much in charge of the decor as I am petrified of animals, so let’s just not discuss it, shall we?

Anyway. That table up there is where we eat our meals. It overlooks the backyard that we share with all the neighbors in the building. It’s my ideal perch for when I want to be Gratzer-outdoors, which means indoors but with the windows open. The table itself is my life’s one real nod so far to mid-century modernism. It’s a Heywood Wakefield Harmonic Drop-leaf Extension Table that I bought for ch-zzzn-eap on eBay and made Cope drive like 300 miles in a u-Haul to pick up in rural Pennsylvania. Someday when all four of us can reliably use coasters I’ll get someone who knows what they’re doing to refinish it. Until then, it’s the perfect spot from which to yell down to the girls in the garden between sips of totally uncoastered Sauvignon Blanc.

London Flat Kitchen | Umami Girl-3

Here’s the kitchen, which I use on days unlike today, when I’m not feeding my kid a Pret a Manger sandwich for lunch. The little island is just this old guy from IKEA. It took me like a year to figure out how perfect it would be to have it there, and it really made a huge impact on functionality, storage, and comfort in the room for very little money. I’ve noticed everyone’s talking about solid-surface backsplashes these days. The one here has held up well and been easy to clean, in case you’re curious. I’m not personally obsessed with the look, but since we’re renting here, I really can’t complain. (Actually, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from living in London, you can always complain. It’s just that it won’t do anything.)

London Flat Living Area | Umami Girl-2

Here’s a look at the main living area (same room as the dining area, just from the opposite angle). If you’ve been reading for a while and are super-observant, you might notice that almost all this furniture is from our house in New Jersey, where it resided in multiple rooms. Hence the light brown sofa both facing another sofa and butting up against a chaise. I wouldn’t have chosen this arrangement from scratch for this space, but in the end it’s been cozy and totally good enough. Hooray for totally good enough! View full post »

  • If I can ever clean my house enough to allow a housecleaner to see without gasping in horror (and complete the cleaning job) I will totally trade house pics. In the meantime, those dining room windows! Incredible!ReplyCancel

  • J Philly

    There are so many ways I love this!!!! Also, I made your garlic scape pesto tonight. Rowan licked the bowl. And I took sewing lessons in honor of your sewing machine. Can you come home already?ReplyCancel

Our girls have grown up so much since we moved to London that when we took a recent trip to Florence, Michelangelo’s David was like, “Wow, they’re big in person!” Tell me about it, you giant, beautiful slab of stone. Tell me about it. As they’ve grown, this whole casual travel around Europe thing has gotten easier and more fun. Even so, most of what’s fun is that we’ve abandoned all expectations and learned to show up, take in what we take in, and get out.

Florence was an important — if tricky — place to practice that style of visit. With six bajillion “must-see” museums, you could spend weeks chasing guidebook affirmation. Or you could cross the Arno river to the more relaxed left bank, hike up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic city view that also allows for some major run-around time, and settle in at  Trattoria La Casalinga with a big, homey plate of spaghetti and totally decent house wine without the tourist prices. Just sayin’, it’s up to you.

Truth be told, we did our share of museum visits in Florence. Maybe more than our share, as evidenced by the girls’ casual observation on day four: “NO MORE MUSEUMS!” Yeah, we’re still tweaking the balance. I don’t know how I can have seen so many Caravaggio paintings and still know virtually nothing about him, but I shouldn’t be surprised. As well-traveled kids, my sister and I had a side business leading Non-Informational Tours. We couldn’t tell you anything you couldn’t have observed on your own, but we were damn fine at walking backwards with a closed Totes umbrella held above our heads. Plus ça change.

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  • Chuffed, eh? Your anglification proceeds apace.ReplyCancel

  • Shannon

    Brings back great memories of a similar trip for us. We were surprised by all the meat on the menus but also loved the daily gelato ritual. When we were there, they had a special “locals” weekend where they placed down sod on all the cobbled stones around the Duomo. Very surreal!ReplyCancel

Asian Pear Juice with BasilHi folks, here’s me catching up on January juice month at Serious Eats, where I posted these three jewel-colored juices. Up top is Asian Pear Basil Juice, followed by Green Grapefruit Ginger Juice and Orange Sweet Potato Juice. Just click through on the photos to get to the Serious Eats posts and recipes. See you later in the week with some recommendations and a recap of our recent trip to Florence.

Green Grapefruit Ginger JuiceOrange Sweet Potato Juice

Carolyn xx



Buffalo Green Juice | Umami GirlHappy New Year! Early January is a satisfying time of year for me because for a solid 14 days, it feels like the whole world is perfectly aligned with my personal interests. The Williams Sonoma catalog has jewel-colored juices on the cover. People are Pinning yoga. Everyone’s searching like mad for vegan recipes. Life is good. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t afraid to let my absolute freak flag fly on Serious Eats this week with the Buffalo Green Juice. Not gonna lie, it’s both savory and spicy. And also? It’s my favorite. You can find the recipe here on Serious Eats.

Carolyn xx