down south

10405353_762981263763225_4960403498973053471_n Just back from a week in the rugged south of Chile. We booked the trip a few months ago when Snakes signed up to run the Patagonia Marathon. Though there were less arduous options, he decided to tackle the ultra, a 64K course (a hair under 40 miles) that wound itself through the foothills of the Torres Del Paine National Park. No words can relay the scenery, my photos will try. He’d been training for the past few months despite the thick smog and drizzle that inhabits (and inhibits) Santiago in the winter months.IMG_4618

We flew into Punta Arenas, a port city that sits along the Strait of Magellan. It’s about as far south as you can go on the mainland continent. We picked up the car and drove north for two hours along the “fin del mundo” highway before reaching our first destination, Puerto Natales. This gusty little town serves as a jumping off point for hikers to grab supplies and fill their bellies before setting off for adventures in the icy beyond. We’d been following the forecast for weeks in preparation, our teeth chattering their disappointment. Overcast, drizzly, snow showers, high winds predicted for every day of our week long visit. I hoped that Snakes would at least have “cooperative” weather for his 7 hour run. (Still can’t wrap my head around that.) I’m pleased to report, they were gloriously wrong. Brisk and invigorating, yes, but perfectly sunny every single day but one! What luck. IMG_5161 We started our first full day rising with the sun and joining a boat ride to nearby glaciers. Bushbaby would’ve preferred to stay back and spend the day at the swirly slide we’d discovered in town upon arrival.  Both Snakes and I were nervous we’d over estimated our daughter’s patience for things like a day long boat excursion. There’s a fine line to walk when yearning to explore a place where you may never have the opportunity to return and placating a 3 year old, all while respecting your fellow travelers. I’m glad we took the chance. IMG_5173IMG_5180IMG_5181 We chugged out into the river, pausing to admire a colony of penguin-like birds living in the rock ledges and retreating glaciers. In the cozy space below deck we played “UNO” while sipping hot tea offered by the tour organizers. After 3 hours or so, the boat tied off at a remote little dock to allow us an hour and a half long hike to stretch our legs, explore the lichen covered terrain and join the others for a photo op with the glacier. IMG_5227IMG_5230

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Our guide told us that just 10 years ago the glacier in the background of this picture extended all the way up to that rock. From where we are posed, visitors could reach back and touch it. The hike back to the boat was a little more difficult for the Bushbaby, but with a horseyback ride from mom and a few football carries and sack-o-potato holds by dad we all made it back to the boat in one piece.

As we settled back into our seats with grumbling bellies and a shiver in our bones we hoped for the best, since the appeal of UNO had long worn off. Regrettably, I’ve never been one of those amazing moms who travels with multiple courses of snacks and refreshments in my bag. We had some super salty airline peanuts since we’d already eaten our orange, so all was not lost. I noticed one of the crew moving carefully down the aisle with a full trey of what I figured was apple juice. No sooner did I look over at Snakes and say, “Wouldn’t that be amazing if that was whiskey? But of course it’s apple juice.” and 2 very generous glasses of whiskey poured over “glacial ice” were plunked down in front of us.

“Apple juice!!!” Coco was elated to quench her peanutty thirst. Luckily the guy showed back up with juice of some sort before she lost it. We were all teetering at this point and mommy’s whiskey was a welcome reprieve. IMG_5251

The final stop was for a hearty meatlovers lunch at a bucolic farm right along the waterway. Their main source of income must’ve been catering to travelers such as ourselves passing through every afternoon. Nothing existed in any direction except their modest farm with sheep, a hoop house and a blazing churrascaria attached to a room filled with tables and chairs. IMG_5290IMG_5267

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I hadn’t meant for this post to carry on for so long, but I guess it’s worth stating the obvious and saying that it has been a while. As usual, I’ve missed this. After lunch we all cozied back into the boat and returned to our starting point. IMG_5255

We had a four hour drive ahead of us the next day into the heart of Torres Del Paine national park. Our lodge was the ending point of the marathon which was taking place the day after. I was relieved we’d broken it up into a two day trip since after only four hours in the car I was having flashbacks from our vacation in Namibia, after which we’d sworn to reign in our vacation ambitions. IMG_5309 IMG_5315 IMG_5320

We settled into the lodge and scoped out the finish line. There was a 100K trail marathon (or something equally as terrifying) that was finishing up that afternoon. Snakes jammed his pack full of “goos” and laid out his gear for his departure time of 5am. They picked him and the other ultra runners up and drove them for two hours in the opposite direction, so they could spend the next 6-7 running back. There was very little race support in this remote locale, I imagined he could just stop and drink from rivers when the urge struck.

The bushbaby and I got a little more sleep then spent our morning poking around the horse stables and checking out the preparations for the post-race festivities, a massive lamb barbecue.  Around the time we were expecting our guy to cross the finish line, we settled in to cheer the other runners in and wait for ours.

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Snakes did it. He finished his final (or so he says..) ultra marathon. He was wrung out with exhaustion as you can imagine, but invigorated from the sense of accomplishment. He even managed to rally the next day to join us ladies for a horse ride and capture the below image which may actually inspire me to do holiday cards this year! Thank you all for reading and bearing with me as I work to resurrect one of my dearest creative outlets. IMG_5396IMG_5404

some home work- before & after

IMG_3877After 3 months of our arrival, I’ve finally gotten our place together enough to share some pictures. **TONS of photos to follow, I apologize if you’re working with a super slow internet.** We are just entering into fall with cooler nights and low 70s sunny days. Sometimes a little hazy and though there’s talk about the terrible pollution, thankfully none of us have had any respiratory issues. In our neighborhood, this sort of apartment building is common, surrounded by window boxes which are spilling over with all sorts of flowering plants, tropicals and herbs. Our boxes have some existing geraniums, but beyond that they could use some TLC. The Bushbaby and I have set up a little composting area in one of them for finely ground juicer scraps. She loves to dig in and surprise the worms with lunch.

IMG_3875The doormen are out early each morning, mopping the walks and tidying up after fallen leaves. The grounds for our building are immaculate. There’s a family of cats who live in our complex. Though indolent with sunshine, they slink beneath the rosemary bushes when a certain curious toddler approaches. Not a bad life for a bunch of strays.

One of my favorite things about “all this moving business” (as my grandmother would’ve said with her brows furrowed, shaking her head) is that I am allowed to rearrange, dream up new ways to camouflage and gussy up our government issued furnishings to make this house a home. My budget was very minimal, as in nonexistent. That whole buying a row house in DC thing tends to put a little strain on a one paycheck family. I NEED A JOB!!! But enough talking. Before and after photos are so much fun.

The apartment is half of the floor, split down the center by the entrance hall. To the left is the kitchen and living space, to the right are the 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and straight ahead is the office. When we arrived there was only the mirror in this area.IMG_4553IMG_4554The living room, to the left leads to the dining room and sitting area which lead to the kitchen, and back through to the half bath and entrance hall. IMG_3658 IMG_4551IMG_3656 IMG_4545IMG_3672 IMG_4552 IMG_4548 IMG_4549IMG_4546

Onward to the dining room and sitting area-IMG_3650 IMG_4536 IMG_4540 IMG_4542 IMG_4498 IMG_4483 IMG_4491IMG_4490IMG_4508 IMG_4503I covered the couches with the IKEA Ektorp slip covers. I spent a few hours one Saturday afternoon recovering the dining chairs with a hearty upholstery fabric I picked up last summer at a DC yard sale. The cushion covers on the sofa are from fabrics I bought in Luanda.

The kitchen’s not much to look at, it wasn’t bad to start. White, basic and with a good layout, gas stove top(!!) and plenty of counter space. It has a built-in breakfast nook and tons of cabinets. IMG_3660IMG_4556 IMG_4560As far as the rest of the house, I’ve got the Bushbaby’s room in good order but the others still need a little love. Started out impossibly dull but with a roll of washi tape, a pair of scissors and a level to make a grid, we ended up with a pretty fun space for our senorita!IMG_3639IMG_4522IMG_4525IMG_4511IMG_4515IMG_4518IMG_4532I’m so pleased with how the polkadot wall turned out. Even though we are allowed to paint in our apartments, we are required to turn them back to beige when we’re leaving. As much as I love color, it sounds like another major hassle during transfer time. I actually cut the washi tape pieces into circles, about half way through I wished I’d have cut them into little raindrops instead. Always next time. The whole project took a couple of hours and since someone is currently in a “sticker phase”, I had a very committed little helper. It’s cute, right?

bus to wonderland

IMG_4128Last week we hopped a bus from the city center to Valparaiso, a coastal town just an hour and a half drive from Santiago. You may recognize it from recent news when the worst wildfires in the region’s history swept through the hills only a week ago. We considered canceling but decided that since the fires were controlled, the city could use our tourist dollars now more than ever.  I am so pleased that we stayed the course.

We have elected to go car free for now and are determined to make the most of public transportation options. We paid $10 for two round trip bus tickets, as Bushbabies ride for free. We arrived Wednesday afternoon and checked into the Fauna Hotel in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood. The top floor housed their restaurant which boasted one of the most impressive collections of succulents that I’ve ever had the pleasure to dine with. And then there was the view beyond.IMG_4081

The hotel was situated on a footpath which connected the street to a funicular, which means we were steps away from two very different neighborhoods. The funicular station had recently been renovated and had a HUGE (and pretty steep!) slide that took you from the arrival platform to the plaza below. My first impression of this jaw-dropping place was that of a magical but dangerous playground. Predictably Snakes and the Bushbaby nearly wore out the seats of their pants.IMG_4014IMG_3995IMG_4384We hired a city guide, Perro Tours, to take us off the beaten path and fill us in on the history and reason behind all of this astounding public art. (I’m not sure I ever got an entirely comprehensive answer.) He told us that much of it is the result of a recent festival of Chilean and Latin American street artists who came to the city to transform neighborhoods into open air galleries. Every corner you turn, every alleyway you peek into, every implausible staircase leads to yet another public square covered in bright mosaics or splashes of mouthwatering colors. I adore (and suspect will crave) this accessibility! Imagine if every time you left home your path was rainbow colored and lined with murals. Pure magic, right? Or would it be like everything remarkable thing that we eventually take for granted?  In time would you fail to notice?

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We returned to Santiago Friday afternoon, after a brief two night stay. There is so much more to explore. My mind still drifts through that seaside wonderland and with any luck will continue to do so until we have the good fortune to return.

 

 

end of an era (or what a broken heart will do for your creativity)

IMG_0586Last weekend Reggie went to meet his brother in the great boneyard beyond. It’s still hard for me to believe that we are dogless. (Does it seem like lately I always come bearing bad news?) He had become progressively more lethargic until it seemed selfish for us to not intervene. One of those real stinkers of dog ownership. You have to recognize when it’s their time and then, the most difficult thing, act accordingly. Those gentle spirits, forever frolicking through our memories and swiping phantom pork chops from the counter’s edge. Man, I miss them.

Instead of slipping under the blanket of sadness that was threatening to bundle us all up, I put my mind elsewhere. We were all so heavy hearted, I knew I needed to begin a fun and distracting project. Enter, Pinterest.IMG_3883

I built the Bushbaby a tepee in the corner of our living room. After a little confidence building research for DIY tepees, I decided that I would give it a shot. I have so many lovely African fabrics from our time in Luanda that it ended up costing me only the price of the wood, less than 10 bucks. Very little sewing was involved since I tacked it all together with a staple gun. What follows is a rough tutorial- there are already so many on line. IMG_3808

At the Chilean equivalent of Home Depot, we bought 5 very long pieces of wood. I had them make five cuts in order to get the right height and fortuitously, form the base with the scraps. Once home, I drilled holes in the ends and threaded them together with twine.IMG_3811 IMG_3812

After that, I pulled out some fabrics to decide on a colorway that wouldn’t be too garish as a permanent installation in the living room. I tore the fabrics into various random widths of strips and got busy with my staple gun. In hindsight, I really should’ve pressed the fabrics first. I think I was just so excited to see it start taking shape.IMG_3817 IMG_3822 IMG_3824

I had the wiring from an old pendant lamp that I strung inside to make a little “chandelier”. There’s a toggle switch on the cord that the Bushbaby can control from inside. She is pretty thrilled to have her own private space, but still be right in the mix.IMG_3896IMG_3887


IMG_3903 I’m happy with how it turned out. I still want to make a few adjustments, maybe fancy up that entrance way. But more importantly, my girl loves it. And I was able to repurpose an old dog bed. All is not lost!IMG_3891IMG_3908

 

 

settling in

The new computer is here!

Finally I am able to sit at a keyboard and peck out a thoughtful string of words, coupled with a few photos. I always say it when I return but, I really miss this space.IMG_1142

I have much to report. I intended to start with the fact that we are two months in to our second post in Santiago, Chile. However, once I signed back in and started fishing around here, I recognized how long it’s been and thought, wow. a lot more than that has happened.

First off. Major milestone, new decade. I turned 40 back in November. Forty. I’m trying to be all power to the people about it but, damn. 40. If I’m one of the lucky ones, that’s like half way. Tack onto that a weird medical thing that turned out to be nothing but incredibly rattling. Tack onto that my sweet boy passing on into the great beyond exactly a week before departure. Then frost that all with the 6 week homelessness of home leave. (A mandatory 6 week stay in the US between posts. Never mind that we were just in DC for language training for 7 months.) Anyway, it’s all left me with a belly twisting case of existential hiccups.IMG_2062

Summer break is just ending on the flip side of the equator. Daycares, schools, colleges are all resuming. Our neighborhood is slowly filling up with people returning from holidays. Traffic gets heavier all the time. We live within walking distance (20-30 depending on your pace) to the embassy. There are tons of cafes, stores, parks, fancy hotels, wine bars. It’s a newly constructed area of high rise condos and office buildings.IMG_2993

The Bushbaby is super excited to start “school”.  Even though I have the predictable heavy-heartedness that most moms feel, I’m pretty delighted to have a sliver of time back to myself. Our things are slated to arrive Friday. My head and hands are so ready to get back into my studio. There comes a point when collecting inspiring images on pinterest just doesn’t cut it any longer!IMG_0321

I can’t promise that I won’t attempt some type of video homage to Banjo at some point, because man, losing my constant companion of the last near decade has really been tough. Animal lovers out there, you get it, right? The guy really was legendary.

Anyway, as I was saying, a few weeks after our little rock-n-roller Halloween, I turned 40. Because language training was still hanging over our house like a dark cloud, we decided it’d be best to wait until later to celebrate. I came home one night to find a stunning and timeless Burberry trench hanging quietly in my closet, just waiting for me to discover and lose my mind. That Snakes fella is full of surprises.

Shortly after, we loaded up the family and set off down the road to Bethlehem, PA, Christmas city and home of the in-laws. Shared a great Thanksgiving dinner and weekend. I’m always so grateful to be with family during this time. It was fantastic.IMG_3027IMG_3053IMG_3058IMG_3114IMG_3152

After returning to DC, packing out and then loading back up again, we returned to Bethlehem for the duration of the holidays and through the end of January when we shipped off for Santiago. We managed to sneak in a quick trip to New Orleans. My girlfriend- who I’ve mentioned a few times here before had recently put in a pool! Since January is a slow time for her little Boutique NOLA Cottage, we were able to stay with her. It was the first time all of my New Orleans friends met the bushbaby, great fun. IMG_1049

my contribution to christmas dinner: white chocolate mousse with cranberry curd!

my contribution to christmas dinner: white chocolate mousse with cranberry curd!

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swamp tour in slidell

IMG_3377IMG_3556So that’ll do it for now. I am hoping to reconnect with some of you whom I’ve only known through here. Also, anyone out there living in Santiago??!? Leave a comment! Maybe we can get together for a coffee sometime?

punk pioneer

IMG_2886Last night Snakes, Blondie and I set off down Pennsylvania Ave to “Hill-O-Ween”, our neighborhood’s block party, and the trick-or-treating mayhem which followed. There were bounce houses, hay rides, balloon twisters and little princesses and monsters galore. I had been talking it up for days with the Bushbaby, trying to teach her the rules of the game. All I was able to accomplish in the end was a demanding, “TREAT!” with her hand thrust out in front of her. That girl doesn’t mince words.  IMG_2899

Although initially it seemed that we might have that whole moody toddler thing working against us, it actually leaned in our favor once she got suited up. Turns out that the attitude and sass one requires to pull off being a rock-icon comes quite naturally to a two year old. IMG_2889IMG_2894I usually prefer to make her costume, using what we’ve got on hand with a few little flourishes thrown in. But since I’m currently studio-less, I took stock of what resources we did have. First and foremost, that mullet. Secondly, H&M kids section. It was a toss up between a mini- Debbie Harry or Dog, The Bounty Hunter. I figured I’d have a better chance of my erudite Capitol Hill neighbors “getting it” with Blondie. And they did. I’m sure it helped that she was blasting Blondie’s greatest hits from a small but mighty little speaker  tucked into her treat bag.

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Hope you all had a safe and memorable holiday!

got it together

After the longest absence ever from this blog, I hope I am saying, “I’m back!!” with a huge amount of sincerity and conviction. I always miss this strange little community.

As my last post so enthusiastically revealed, we bought a house back in July. We spent the following weekends and slivers of weekday nights scouring craigslist, estate sales and yard sales. Normally this is the sort of thing I delight in savoring, taking my sweet and delicious time to find the right table, rug, accent pieces, etc. But, foreign service life dictates that time is ALWAYS of the essence. Also weighing in is the reality of living in the district on one government worker’s salary. Pocketbook is lean (see above: shopping second hand) and this darling of ours is a glaringly obvious income generator. Since we still have a lease at our condo around the corner from here, I hustled to gussy her up and get her earning her keep.

I didn’t have as much luck as I’d hoped with longer term tenants so I decided to post on airbnb. Within a couple of weeks we were booked nearly solid for two months. Snakes says my price was too low ($175 per night for the entire house) and in retrospect, he’s probably right. But since we were brand new to this, I thought I’d rather give people a respectable deal until I had my feet wet in my latest role of innkeeper. Is there any limit to what we “trailing spouses”  can do? I seriously doubt it.

Now we’ve got a longer term tenant for whom I am grateful. Another tenant is lined up from mid-January through mid-September. After nearly two months of running back and forth cleaning, stocking, straightening, emailing, etc. I am ready for a mini lull while I set my sights on preparations for our next big move in January. We will be taking our home leave (6 week mandatory vacation between overseas posts) in December and with any luck may be able to spend a portion in our very own home. Can you imagine!??! She’s lovely as is, but with a little sparkly holiday finery!? Gasp!

One final note before I welcome you into my home, I’ve set up a VERY basic website: www.ivesplace.com. The same photos I’m posting here, but with a pretty comprehensive (and slightly emotive..I seriously can’t help myself) narrative. There is an “availability” tab at the top if you’re ever interested in a stunning and remarkable non-Oakwood alternative.

 

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