Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vermont: And Happiness

This is happiness.

Happiness like 3 ribbons on a rainy day of a horse riding competition on Special Edition.

Happiness like singing holiday carols at a Christmas concert at the Atlas Theater.

Happiness like reading a book in front of the fire that your daddy built for you.

Happiness like going to bed early, and giggling with your mommy over something silly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Vermont: And the Smallest City in America

Lovely Vergennes just happens to be the smallest city in America.  I kid you not.  But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in charm.

Nothing more charming than French pastries at Laundry on Main Street. Written up in Food and Wine and no wonder.

Simply charming.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vermont: And the Tale of a Beautiful Fall Day

So much to see, so much to do in Vermont.  We ventured over the Lincoln Gap, winding up and up and then down and down to the lovely towns of Warren and Waitsfield.

And then we found a beautiful little store with magical Christmas items and lovely wine. Crowded with holiday shoppers and bustling clerks.  And the most amazing miniature Christmas trees made out of luxurious green feathers which found their way into my shopping basket. 

As the sun set on the Inn in Waitsfield, I decided it was a perfect Vermont day.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vermont: and a Far Off Place Called Jakarta

I boarded the plane.  Oh, it was more than a day ago.  And I was not happy.  Not happy to be facing 26 hours of travel.  Not happy to be away from the kids.  Again.  You see, I have been away too much this year and it is hard.  Hard on them.  Hard on my wonderful husband.  Hard on my aging body.

So , here it is 530 am in this far off place called Jakarta and I can't sleep.  Too much on my mind.  Too many worries that I tried to leave at home that traveled with me on the plane.

Like Hurricane Sandy and our house in New York.  Friends still without power.  People hurting and homeless.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vermont: And a Storm Called Sandy

Where to begin? How to put into words what we are feeling? The anxieties we experience hourly?

Thankfully, we are all safe and sound here in D.C.  Our house experienced high winds and a small leak but that is no big deal.  In NY and NJ, the same can't be said. People are without power and water.  Kids will go to sleep tonight in a strange place, instead of their own home. Houses have been flooded. Businesses ruined. 

And on Fire Island, one of the hardest hit locations along the Eastern seaboard, we just don't know what has happened to our dear summer house. We do know that 120 people who chose to stay behind are stranded, with no way to get off. We do know that streets are flooded waist deep.  We do know that the size of this storm was something few of us could fathom.We do know that houses washed away, collapsed into the ocean.

Our summer community will never be the same.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vermont: And my Day Job

So, it seems some people in my little town in Vermont think I work for the CIA.  I had to pause and think why. But then I remembered that last year when I came back from Juba, South Sudan, I went into my daughter's school and gave a presentation. It was hard -- oh, so very hard to explain what I do.

Then, there was the package -- the package that arrived from Kyrgyzstan.  The brown paper package with cyrillic writing and wax stamp. I ordered pillows. I really did.

And the black SUV that sat in our drive with Virginia plates.

And my numerous early morning flights to D.C.

What do I really do?  Check back tomorrow.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Vermont: And that Magical City called New York

It's a magical city like no other.  Filled with skyscrapers and shining jewels.  Overflowing with beautiful people. It's a city like no other.

Is it the lunch at Bergdorf's overlooking Central Park? Or the shoe department at Saks?

Or the Plaza, where we think about Eloise romping the hallways, while we sip our colorful drinks under the pale purple lights? And then sleep peacefully in those lovely white beds?

I don't know for sure....but I know that the magic has definitely rubbed off on our girls.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Vermont: And a Place Very Far Away

It's such an amazing city.  And I see it differently every time I go.  It can be the juxtaposition of old and new. A sky scraper with a motif of elephants and temples.  The Siam Paragon mega mall and an old wat around the corner, nestled amongst greenery and offering a respite from the hustle and bustle.  The monks serenely walking past while the scooters screech by and the pink taxis honk their horns.

It's crowded.  It's hot.  But it's never, ever dull. And it's always a different city I see from the last time.

I'll share some of my impressions the next few days.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Vermont: And a City Called Bangkok

It's the ciy I adore most in Southeast Asia. It's the city I first came to in 2000, to explore the beaches, a cooking school, the temples, the weekend market and more.

And so now I'm back after 4 or 5 trips in between to the Venice of the East, with its congestion, traffic, super malls, amazing hospitality and grace.

Even at the Chatachuk Weekend market, with its endless stalls and counterfeit goods, where one can find beautiful silk pillows amongst all of it after a lemon and soda drink at Viva.

And yes, I am still as smitten.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vermont: And Packing My Bags

As fall sets into Vermont and Washington, D.C., it's that time again.

Time for me to get on a plane and head off. This time to Bangkok, Thailand, a city I truly adore for all of its humidity, crowds, traffic and chaos.

I haven't been there since February 2011, when I was lucky enough to spend a magical weekend in Phuket with my BFF from college, Becky, and her family.  We lounged at a villa, watched the sunset at the beach and did some fun shopping for cotton tunics and colorful jewelry.

So, aside from thinking about work, I'm opening my Luxe Guide to Bangkok right now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Vermont: And a Far Off Place called Turkmenistan

My husband is on a mission. A mission for me in...Turkmenistan.  No, he's not off fighting bad guys or tracking down the forces of evil.  (Although I'm sure many of you will say, sure, right).

He is on a mission to find me.....rugs.  And.....a suzani fabric or two.

I know it will be a challenge, perhaps greater than the real work he went there to do on behalf of the American government, which is providing legal advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for some upcoming international games.

So, keep your fingers crossed for me. (Brad took this photo at a local market yesterday)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vermont: Paris Part 2

I have been a very lucky woman. Lucky to have met and fallen in love with a wonderful man. Lucky to have two healthy, beautiful children.  Lucky to have an interesting job.

And lucky, oh so very lucky, to have good friends. 

You see, it wasn't so long ago that I was living in Croatia. Working hard to build democratic political parties.  Thousands of miles from my family and girlfriends.

And then I met Willeke, my exuberant, sporty, humorous Dutch friend.  That was over ten years ago and we are still best of friends today.

So, it was lucky that she could join us in Paris from her home in Amsterdam.  Lucky that she and Abby got to know each other. Lucky that it was like three girlfriends piling around Paris together. Oh, so very lucky.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vermont: And One Spring Weekend

This is the story of how a little girl and her mommy flew off to Paris one fine spring week for a week of  laughing, shopping, museum hopping, sleeping in and generally feeling Parisienne.

It was started with a phone call to her husband to say, "oh, would you mind if we go?"

And then soon, the flights were booked, as was a charming 5th floor walk up apartment in Le Marais. The kind with big windows that opened into the street below. The kind where we could wake up to walk to a neighborhood boulangerie for pain au chocolat and eat it in bed.

And then, we were off to the streets of Paris.

And we shopped, did we shop. And we ate, did we ate. And we laughed, did we laugh. And we marveled at the sights, did we marvel.

And we loved every minute of it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Vermont: And the Tale of the Moroccan Horse

She told me I was a hard bargainer. She told me she wanted more money than I thought it was worth.  So, we went back and forth.  Me, in my broken French accompanied by my beautiful colleague, Alexandra, as we wound our way in and out of the crowded and innumerable cobblestone streets of the souk in Marrakech.  Her, covered from head to toe in purple with a black veil.  Her, selling her handmade wares.

But, now he sits in Stefan's room in Vermont, thousands and thousands of miles from where he was purchased. This little leather horse and his camel friend.

So very far from Morocco and the purple lady.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Vermont: And the Search for the Perfect Furniture

So, how do I begin to fill a large renovated barn space? Yes, there are the fabrics, trinkets and momentos I have gathered from years of traveling to Africa and Asia for work.  I am having pillows made -- with fabrics purchased in Indonesia over 10 years ago!  Can't wait to see them sitting in the kids' reading nook.

But I've also deployed some Vermont talent to help me.  A few months back I met the lovely Brianna of Bri's Vintage Chic, a wonderful Vermont blog and Shelburne antique store, and her mother, Sally.  They are now on a hunt for me for several items and just found this great outdoor table and benches.

Won't it look wonderful covered with sunflowers, wine glasses and tableware next spring?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vermont: And the Start of School in D.C.

Oh, do I miss Vermont. Last year at this time, we were starting Abby in 2nd grade and Stefan was happy at home with our sitter.

This year, we are back in D.C. and back to the rat race.  And our little Stefan started pre-school.

Today was a day to rip your heart out and turn it inside out. My little guy -- who has never cried with a care giver -- had huge, wet tears running down his face as he begged me to stay and told me "I feel bad, mommy."

I know, I know -- this is what moms go through. This is what our little ones do on the 2nd day of school. This is the transition face. This will pass. 

But it doesn't make it any less painful. 

Here's to a fresh start tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vermont: And a Happy Ending

This is how it all started. At the souk in Cairo, Egypt -- on one of those cobblestoned side streets pale with light late one evening, with a vendor beckoning us to come in and "just take a look, miss." 

They were all shapes and sizes. Every color imaginable.  Some square. Some round. They were beautiful beads waiting to be worn. 

Oh, the green, the beautiful green. And the brown just peeking through. And the lovely oval shape of them.

And, so they were strung tightly and worn lovingly.  Then one tragic day, they broke and the dazzling green beads went tumbling across the floor.  Those that were salvaged sat sad and forgotten for many months. 

Until one day, we found a lovely little store, Imogene, in Shelburne. And picked out some amazing gold beads from Ethiopia to go with them. 

Abby's little fingers strung the tiny beads with patience....and then one hour later she emerged.  New and shining.  Polished and sophisticated.  Isn't she lovely?

Vermont: And my Day Job

So, since we are getting acquainted, there are a few other things I should tell you about my life when I'm not in Vermont. I travel.  Quite a lot to some interesting places in the developing world.  Not the kind of places that I ever dreamed of.

Last year, I visited the world's newest nation -- South Sudan. I spent 10 days in Juba, a dusty, up-and- coming capital city crawling with international development and humanitarian aid workers.

Trips like these put things in perspective.  Like the privilege of having a clean bed and sheets to sleep on each night.  The ability to close a window.   Of driving to school in a car, rather than walking along a dusty road. Of having electricity to read by at night.

Oh, perspective. I gain so much of it during my travels.