Monday, December 23, 2013

Vermont: And a Winter Wonderland of Fun

Vermont is a special place at the holidays.

Simple but true.  From hot chocolate loaded with whipped cream and peppermint sticks in Middlebury...

To decorated reindeer in our renovated barn....

From breakfast with Santa and shy boy whispering in his ear....

To girls celebrating a certain someone's birthday with Morgan horses in Weybridge....

Thanks Vermont for a very special December...and Christmas isn't even here yet!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Vermont: And Making it Over the Hump

I made an amazing discover this week.  Somewhere between thinking about an upcoming trip to India for work and realizing how much I ate over Thanksgiving weekend, I thought of this as home. That doesn't feel strange anymore.  I slowly have established a routine. The kids have made friends and are continuing to do so.

It's now four months since we made the BIG move from Washington, DC. People still shake their heads with wonder when I tell them that we moved here....from there.  And comment, "wow, that's a big change."

But I can smile now without silently screaming in my head, "I know!!!"  I'm used to the reaction and comfortable with all of the reasons we chose to move.

And so, here's to month four of our big, Vermont, country adventure.  Let the good times roll.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Vermont: And a Happy Weekend

It sounds trite to say that it was a wonderful weekend but it truly was. In a very Vermont kind of special way.

From fresh fallen snow greeting us on Thanksgiving Day to a meal made almost entirely with fresh, local Vermont products.  Brussel sprouts, potatos and so much more.  I didn't even mind all that much that Brad's turkey weighed in at a whopping 17 pounds.

From handwritten menus by Abigail to having us all recite the things we were and are thankful for.  Her menus read: What are you thankful for?  Even Stefan got into the spirit of the day.

From sledding and skiing to big and little hills in our neighborhood.  What fun -- and it's only Thanksgiving.  Can't wait for more snow, and of course, so much more to love about Vermont!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Vermont: And the Story it Tells

I have a story to tell. But I have never been good about putting it down on paper.

Many years ago when I worked in Serbia with democracy activists, I dreamed of taking my notes and writing a memoir. It would talk of the brave, young activists whom I met. The lonely days I spent there as a young American political consultant trying to bring about change under an oppressive regime.   The agony of war, still fresh from the Balkans tragedy that unfolded, and playing out on the lives of the people I toiled to help.

That book never happened.  And so this blog was born along the way.

But our house in Vermont tells a story.  Of days spent in Belgrade. A visit to the market in Senegal under a hot African sun.  Many trips to Bangkok to collect fabrics and carvings and amazing containers for beetle nuts.  Trips to the labyrinth souk in Cairo for beads and alabaster bowls and brightly colored glass pitchers.

Step inside and see what I've been working on.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Vermont: And a Single Girl's Life

About every other Monday, I put on a certain outfit. And a certain makeup. And wear a certain hair style.

And then drive for 30 minutes to the airport to board a plan to take me to there.  My Mac comes out. My IPad is revealed. I'm focused on where that plane will take me and what lies ahead.

There is "home." Well, not really. But it used to be and it's the city that I know. And find more and more to love about. Neighborhoods. Restaurants. Cafes. Coffee bars. Old friends.

Familiarity.  Comfort.

And so on Monday evening, I found myself at Anbar, catching up with my Polish/American friend, Agneiszka, who has traveled the work and seen to so much. And is interesting in her own rite.

We drank Croatian and Serbian wines. Talked about kids. Talked about travels.

Here's to those evenings.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vermont: And Finding Happiness Everywhere

Here are just some of the things that made me happy and brought a smile to my face this weekend, reaffirming my belief in Vermont and our decision to move here:

1.  Spending time with Abby.  It was mommy and Abby time most of Saturday-- going to horseback riding and hitting the annual craft fairs.  Loved it.

2.  Craft fairs.  So unlike me. Very uncharacteristic.  But I do love these Vermont craft fairs.  I especially love paying people who typically undervalue their hard work.  I appreciate what it takes to knit a pair of mittens or make a beautiful wooden cutting board in many, many ways.

3.  Discovering a cool product.  Abel and Lovely.  Some Vermonters probably already know this cool  Charlotte-based company -- makers of yummy smelling soaps and cool t-shirts -- but I stumbled upon them at the Charlotte Craft Fair.  And met the lovely co-founder, Kristin.

4.  Curling up in our reading nook.  Now complete with our reindeer skin from Sweden,  lots of lots of throw pillows from all over the world, including Thailand and Senegal, and a perfect place for reading the Sunday New York Times.

5. Breaking bread with new neighbors.  We are just getting settled here and it's so great to meet interesting, fun people and have them over for dinner. Especially when they bring amazing apple and currant cobbler for dessert!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New York: Dancers, Soup and More

We didn't know why they danced but they did.

Nor why he thought to paint soup cans. Oh, such ordinary soup cans.

Or what lily pads were his inspiration.

But we thought about those things and more as we breezed thru the MoMA last Sunday.

And surely, we will think about it for some time to come.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New York, New York

Soaring skyscapers. Wall to wall people on 5th Avenue jostling for a look at Harry Winston or Louis Vuitton. The buzzing MoMA on a Sunday morning. Whizzing taxis dodging traffic.

Horns beeping. Horses hooves pounding.  Sirens blaring.

Oh, the sights and sounds of Manhattan on a crisp, fall day.

If there is a but, it is but it was invigorating. And stimulating. And wonderful.

To be in one of the most amazing cities in the world with my daughter and my best friend.

To gaze up at those architectural wonders and think about the people living and working above. To marvel at the amount of wealth generated in a city where people actually buy those baubles tempting us through shining windows on 5th Avenue.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vermont: And the "Process"

Some days, I start writing a book in my head. The words tumble out. About our move to Vermont. Why we did it. What motivated us. How I'm feeling. It's mostly about how I'm feeling.

It could be titled "A Year in Vermont" but Brad wouldn't like that title. And maybe it would be "Our 5 Years in Vermont" or "Our Life in Vermont."

But for now, I honestly don't know. Some days, I'm thrilled with being here and the beauty and simplicity that surrounds.

Other days, I struggle to remember why we moved and left behind our life, our friends, our routines, our way of life in the city.

I struggle to think about how we will connect and build a life here that will be as full and satisfying as our life in Washington, DC.

So, if you are reading this, be patient with me.  If you are reading this, please don't ask why.  If you are reading this, please remember that it takes time.

Just try to have faith, as I'm trying, that we made the right decision.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vermont: And our Weekends

Yesterday was truly a perfect Vermont day.  I've had a hard time focusing on the positive the last few weeks of chaos and upheaval but paused for a few minutes yesterday to take it all in.

First, picking up our chickens. Yes, I said chickens. 8 beautiful birds were loaded into the back of Brad's VW bus yesterday and made their journey to Starksboro (more about that later). And by 5 pm, we had an egg -- a perfect, warm egg.

Then, we stopped by the bustling Middlebury Farmers Market. Cheeses. Bread. Colorful vegetables.  We stocked up on all of it!  John, our contractor's wife, has a lovely stand with homespun wool and organic chickens.

Next, we stopped for organic chicken feed and grists (oh, something new I know about now).

Then, I picked apples from our orchard and yes, made a pie.  Not so pretty but delicious...and so proud that the apples are from our very own tree.

And we ended our night with a barn dance. The kids frolicked in the hay bales.  We bid on a few silent auction items.

Home and in bed by 10ish. Still lots of angst but it was a perfect Vermont day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

And Settling In, Sort Of

Has it really been nearly a month since I've blogged? Yes, sadly it has.  And in that time, I've been on an emotional roller coaster as we all try to settle into life in Vermont.

First, there was the summer babysitting issue, after our French au pair departed after just 7 weeks in the US.  But as all things do have silver linings, a lovely Starksboro girl fell out of the sky and frolicked with my kids for most of August.

Then, there was the start of school.  Oh, so much to worry about in terms of whether Abby and Stefan would be happy, would connect socially and would decide that leaving behind friends and a known, "safe" community was not so bad after all.

And, the saga, ongoing saga of trying to find a permanent after school care provider. Who knew it would be this hard?? It's been 8 weeks of looking and we still don't have a solution. I won't bore anyone with the details but suffice it to say it's been a major source of stress in terms of trying to balance life and work.

Finally, that thing called work. Back and forth to DC every other week. Planes and trains and automobiles.  Frantic scheduling to squeeze in meetings and catch ups with fellow staffers.

I know it will take time. I know life will become established.  But for now, I'm having a hard time seeing that future.

Amidst it all, Vermont is....beautiful.  If I can just remember to breathe.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Vermont: And Fishing!

Oh, Clifford Pond. This heavenly little spot is just a stone's throw from our house. Nestled amongst tall pines, a treasure trove of tadpoles and frogs await.

And on a given night last week, we ventured there with fishing rod and Brad's tackle box from when he was a kid.

Granted the fish were tiny and we threw them back in, it was a perfect way to spend a Vermont evening. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Washington, D.C.: And the Good Life

There will be many things that I will miss about D.C. this fall, when we start our Vermont adventure.

Like walking to Nationals Stadium.  Biker Barre classes around the corner from our house.  Eastern Market for Saturday browsing.

Oh, so many wonderful eateries on 8th Street, like Cava, Tash, Tandoori Grill, Old Siam, Las Placitas. I need to stop.

So until next time, I'll be in Vermont.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fire Island: And Putting Life into Perspective

It's been a very rough few weeks.

Not insurmountable and in many ways, we have so much to be thankful for.  And I am.

But July has not had good karma, vibes, juju.  Call it what you want.

So, every day, I try to live in the moment and enjoy the beauty of my life.

Like Crazy Hat day at the kids' camp. And appreciating a bright yellow colander and some popcorn boxes.

PS They were all Abby's ideas!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fire Island: A Week of Change and Silver Linings

The breezes have been blowing. The sun was out most of the week.  There were fun activities at camp. And walks on the beach.  There was a movie and ice cream night with our dear friend down C Street.

And, there was change. Big, upsetting change. The kind that gives you a knot in your stomach that won't go away and keeps you up at night, wondering how things could have gone so horribly wrong.

Our au pair from France got on a plane to go home Tuesday morning after just 7 weeks.  And in the process, our lives were turned topsy turvy.  The days leading up to her departure were tense and awkward and filled with anger and disappointment.

And then a lovely young lady from Seattle entered our lives. And made our children giggle again. And giggled at them for their silliness. And drew big funny sharks on pieces of construction paper. And took them down the street to her grandparents' pool. And made me sigh with relief.

And then I realized everything would be okay.

So, here's to silliness. And happiness.   And family, of course.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fire Island: And the Celebration of all Things American

When I first moved back from Eastern Europe oh so many years ago, I didn't really get into the spirit of the 4th of July. I didn't fully appreciate the parades and fireworks and the endless red, white and blue.

And then something magical happened. I had my children and I saw the celebration through their eyes.

We decorated our wagons on Fire Island with stars and bunting and dressed up in silly costumes to "march" in a wonderful 4th of July parade. 

We danced to the loud drums and sang along to the Star Spangled Banner. 

And we oohed and ahed at the fireworks as they burst over the skies of our beloved island.

Happy belated 4th of July. I hope yours was as wonderful as ours!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ghana: And Everyday Life Captured in a Few Photos

We know we are much too selfish. We sometimes catch ourselves during the day complaining about the most mundane things. The Starbucks line was too long. We didn't have electricity during a storm for an entire....hour. Our flight was delayed.

But then for me, I travel to the developing world.  And I am reminded that these problems are oh, so very, very small.

There are people who must travel 2 hours on foot to get to work. People who suffer with malaria and malnutrition. Girls who don't get to go to school.

Mothers who have been widowed and are raising children on their own.  People living on less than $1 a day.

Today, I am pausing to think about just how incredibly easy my life is and how truly fortunate I am.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ghana: And a Celebration of African Art

Today, I woke up to an article from the BBC about the growing popularity of African art.  The display of African artists at the Tate Modern in New York.

Wow.  Could the timing be any more significant?

Here is just one of the African pieces I saw yesterday at the Artists Alliance Gallery in Accra, Ghana.

Is it no wonder that these artists are making their names well beyond the borders of Ghana.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ghana: And Wishing....for Something Else

Sometimes I have to get on a plane. And fly very far away. Sometimes, it the last thing in the world I want to do.

As it was on Friday night, my tenth wedding anniversary and Stefan's last day of pre-school.  As we headed off to Dulles International Airport, I wished instead that I was sitting on our front porch, as we did last Friday night, sipping a glass of wine and chatting with our neighbors on Capitol Hill.

Today, I'm in Accra, the capitol of Ghana.  I'm not feeling very happy about being here. I'm feeling a wee bit homesick.  I'm feeling a wee bit blue.

But this mother and daughter brought a smile to my face today.  And perhaps I brought a little smile to theirs, buying 18 yards of colorful, amazing African fabric at the Markula Market for my next project.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Washington, DC: And a Very Special Day

10 years ago today, we were in....Tuscany.  Bright eyed, freshly married, basking in the glow of our Italian wedding with a small group of friends and family.  As I flipped through photos last night to give to Brad today, it seems like a lifetime ago.

So, it was that we skipped off to school today for Stefan's last day of pre-school on our 10th wedding anniversary.  As I was packing for Ghana...and as I was planning a surprise anniversary lunch with prosecco for Brad. As I was packing our final suitcases for our July on Fire Island.

Such is our busy, crazy, chaotic, confusing life some days.

Sounds very trite but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy anniversary, Brad!  10 years?  Seriously?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Australia: And A Country Oh so Far Away

I cried as I left Abby a few weeks ago -- luckily, the real tears didn't start flowing until I was almost out of her classroom door but they did nonetheless. She's grown up enough to tell her dad, "mom's losing it."  Indeed, I was.  Just that day as the emotions overcame me thinking about boarding a flight to Adelaide.

Australia?  Oh, yes -- it is exotic and lovely and exciting. And I love my colleagues down under.  But it is so terribly far away.

I love my work. Anyone who is reading this and knows me, knows that I truly cherish the work that I do and feel that I am making a contribution.

But, how I wish that Australia was closer to.....France.  The UK. Belgium.  Spain.  Okay, you get the point.

P.S. This was the view from my lovely hotel room in Sydney.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sweden: And Lusting for Scandinavian Design of all Kinds

Need I say more? My amateurish pictures say it all.  Simply exquisite.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sweden: And Eating Like a Swede

So, there is the food that one buys at Ikea that passes itself off for Swedish. And then there is authentic Swedish food, like we ate for 2 weeks on our recent, wonderful sojourn in Scandinavia.

First, our dear Easter host, Margareta, made the most amazing Easter feast.  Ham, smoked reindeer, herring of all sorts, potatoes with dill, delicious eggs topped with tiny shrimp.  My mouth is watering just thinking of it now.  Not to mention that the company was wonderful!

And then, of course, there is the fika, that very special Swedish way to go for coffee and a pastry.

And did I mention the fried herring with potatoes and lingonberries? Like the kind that Abby and I ate sitting out on a cold but sunny day in a courtyard surrounded by hip Swedes, as we happened upon an amazing "food truck" (Swedish style).

Oh, do I miss Swedish food.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Sweden: And an Amazing 2 Weeks in Scandinavia

Where to begin?  Where to tell the story of our wonderful 2 weeks in Scandinavia?

Perhaps I'll start with the snowmobiling...and dog sledding. The shrieks of delight from all of us as our young huskies took off across the snowy tundra and we laughed and laughed.

Racing off in our snowmobiles across large white patches, with beautiful mountains in the distance.

And stopping at a Sami tent for coffee, tea and such yummy Swedish cinnamon buns.

And finally, Abby and Stefan interaction with the dogs and puppies with such delight.

Just one of the highlights from our trip north of the Arctic Circle.....oh so cold, but oh so amazing.