The best part about my stay in Ballymena was forming lasting connections with the people I met there. I cannot say enough how much this place came to feel like home because of the wonderful group of supportive people that became a part of my life.
Dorothy is a force of nature, sharp as a tack, and so much fun. She can do anything, from felling trees with her several chainsaws, to whipping up a batch of jammy dodger cookies in 10 minutes flat, to analyzing interpersonal communication skills. The day trips she took both Lea and I on were spent talking for hours, and often extended to more conversation over dinner and wine. We became very close and I will always consider her family and friend. I loved getting to know her daughters Cora and Neve, and getting the chance to see Neve play for the Ulster Women’s Rugby team.
Just down the street from Dorothy lives her father, John. He is such a good natured man, always with a smile on his face. He would join us for dinner or afternoon tea on occasion, and was eager to lend a hand around the house or garden any way he could. I loved hearing is stories of growing up in Wales during World War II, or about how his mother was a great painter and his father was a published mathematician. John himself is a painter, and he uses it as a sort of meditation. When he paints everything else recedes into the background. He also keeps bees, and Dorothy lovingly says that he looks like an astronaut Winnie the Pooh in his bee suit.
There were some of Dorothy’s friends that became my own as well. I never got a picture of Alex, but she is a spunky Northern Irish woman who I enjoyed very much. Then there was Jo and her whole family. Jo is a kind, smart and welcoming person. She persistently asked after my photography and ended up coordinated me doing a little presentation of my different photo projects to their friend group in Ballymena. She let me document her beekeeping, which is so cool. I learned so much. My day of shadowing Jo and her bees also included lunch with, and made by, her mother Judy, who I got to know at several of the friend gatherings and who is a delight. She recently moved to Ballymena from the Lake District in England, and is loving living in Northern Ireland. We bonded over both being left handed.
I also become close with Jo’s son, Gus, who is a documentary filmmaker. We had a lot to bond over with movies and documentary subjects, not to mention that he is a funny guy and just great human. He showed me around Belfast and we also caught a couple of movies in Ballymena, followed of course, by analyzing them like the good film geeks we are.
Dorothy hosted another traveler while I was there, Lea from Switzerland who is so sweet. We made a good team, and made also sorts of tasty dinners and treats. Lea was the instigator of the glamor shoot and the rugby lesson that I went to, and my time there would not have been the same without her. We left Ballymena on the same day, and there were more than a few tears shed.
The whole gang was just the greatest and I am so thankful to have found my adopted Northern Irish family.
To say the least, 2016 has been a rough year for the world on many fronts. Throughout this crazy year though, I was lucky enough to be witness to a lot of love. Five different friends, from all different parts of my life got married this year. As 2016 comes to a close, I want to look back on the good as I prepare for a new year.
Happy New Year everyone, and here's to love.
While in Portland my friend Andrea and I decided that we needed to do some nature exploring. There are so many parks in and around Portland that it was really tough to choose where to go. However, once we saw a photo of the Ghost Forest in Neskowin on the Oregon coast we were sold.
Normally I am not that much of a beach person. I burn very easily, and tend to stick to any shade I can find. (Which resulted in my high school friends lovingly calling me Shade Girl. Yup. Shade Girl.) So the foggy and brooding coast of Oregon is totally and completely my kind of beach.
There's a very good chance I would have been entirely satisfied with just the stormy beach, the fog and the rolling waves. Which is all the beach was when we showed up. Because we hadn't given any thought to the tides. Having grown up on Lake Eire I still kind of forget that tides are a big thing. So the ghost forest was hidden under the water. I'm very glad though, that we decided to go grab some (really delicious) Nepalese food and come back when the tide had revealed the ghost forest.
These stumps had once been an ancient forest of 150-200 foot spruces. During an earthquake in 1700 the forest was destroyed and covered in sand. After some particularly persistent storms in 1997-98 the remains of the trees were uncovered. Now they reappear from the ocean twice a day at low tide.
They are super eerie, haunting and otherworldly. It was really amazing.
Even after having to wade through a beach stream, barefoot in the freezing cold water, it was amazing. Even when my phone fell out of my pocket and directly into a good foot of water (completely my fault), it was amazing. (And miraculously my phone still works.) It is an experience I will not quickly forget.
I've been awol for weeks but now I'm back! Luckily, it was mostly for fun reasons. For a couple weeks I was visiting friends in LA and San Fransisco, and soaking up lots of good times. There will be some posts on those adventures in the weeks to come. For this week's black and white I've picked a photo of my lovely friend Alexis, whom I stayed with while I was in LA. This was our first morning, out at a delicious little coffee shop called Cantina.
My friends Colleen and Yoder and I went out to lunch recently at the coolest place, called Ted's Bulletin. I just wanted to take pictures in there all day. When our food arrived I was so preoccupied Yoder finally told me, "You know you're also allowed to eat that." Here's what I got.
My very good friends Chrissy and Ben spending their first Christmas together as a married couple. Aren't they cute?
I was very lucky to meet and become friends the most wonderful people when I lived in LA. One of those people is my, now, very good friend Alexis.
We bonded over our love of dance, crazy family stories, good food, and of course, books. We exchanged books, and recommended books, and reveled in our favorite parts. It was Alexis who insisted I must read the Outlander series.
I didn't get around to starting the series until after I had moved to DC, but when I did I believe I used the phrase "catastrophic for my productivity" do describe it's effect on me. I simply couldn't put it down. It is such a captivating story, and I highly recommend it to everyone.
Excitingly enough the series is now being adapted for TV, and Alexis was set to visit me right around the air date! It had been nearly a year since I had seen Alexis, which we decided was far too long, but we made up for lost time by talking nearly the entire 72 hours or so that she was here. And in honor of Outlander (which is set in Scotland) and our love of cooking, we made a delicious Scottish inspired meal and watched the first two episodes together.
I documented our endeavor, which consisted of bannocks with butter, brie and jam, Scotch eggs, cod, some veggies, wine and whiskey. (It was Irish whiskey I admit, but that's what I prefer.)
I had actually made bannock, (a Scottish quick flatbread) when I was younger. I went to a historical summer camp (yes, and I loved it, haha) that taught us about the early settlers in my town right outside of Cleveland around 1830. The settler that we focused on was a Scottish weaver who immigrated to the US. Interestingly though, the recipe we used then for bannock was made with cornmeal, instead of oats like what was used in Scotland, since corn is what was available to the pioneers. I must say, both versions are delicious.
The Scotch eggs were fun, neither of us had ever made them before. They were really tasty. I got to use the breadcrumbs I had collected from my own homemade bread which was such a rewarding use of them.
All in all, it was a very rewarding and very fun way to spend our day!
Here is the recipe we used for the bannocks, though we substituted sour cream for the yogurt.
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.