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.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vermont: And a Country Fair

This is the tale of how a little girl and her mom set off on one fine end-of-summer day to the county fair in Essex. 

Of how we rode rides (that is another story entirely!) and ate chicken fingers and cotton candy...
Of how we watched horses and their riders expertly maneuver an obstacle course....
Of how we watched jugglers and a unicyclist balance a woman on his shoulders....
Of how we saw a giant pumpkin weighing over 1,200 pounds.....
Of how we bought cowboy hats and posed in them....

And then after many hours, collapsed exhausted into the car for our ride back to Starksboro, tired but smiling from all the fun.

And thinking what a perfect way to end our summer vacation.