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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brick and mortar

I know I promised a lengthy and well considered post about what I learned during those two hot and sticky years in sunny Luanda, Angola. Something nicely written with an appropriate amount of grit and cultural sensitivity that talks about how I’ll always be so grateful for the experience. Something about becoming a mother for the first time and the isolation and identity shift. Yawn.

Truth be told, I’m having a hard time focusing on much else than the fact that I want to swing from the fan blades howling like a loon. You guys, pop the champagne and raise your glass high…WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!!smile for the camera, gorgeous!I never thought that this would be such a “the new phone books are here!!” occasion in my life, but just writing this makes the butterflies in my stomach begin to dip and swirl anew. In the foreign service, the concept of “home” becomes very nebulous. Moving every few years, all of your treasures wrapped and packed and stored for years at a time. It’s because of this, I suspect, that our new home has affected me so thoroughly. So please pardon me while I shout from the rooftops of Capitol Hill and sing the praises of our beautiful new place.

After a stressful month of shuffling finances and scrutinizing every last dollar to our names, we closed this past Thursday on one of the sweetest little row homes my eyes have ever had the pleasure of resting on. When I say she is a honey, I mean she has the most welcoming and comfortable embrace I have ever felt from a home. I knew it when our agent took us through. My knees buckled from beneath me and I got tears in my eyes. Wacky for sure. But after going through so many gut job formulaic contractor rehabs with the SAME stainless appliances and granite counter tops I had almost given up my hope for something with a little character and personality. I am smitten. Without further ado, welcome to our new home!!!

(pictures which follow are all from the previous owner’s real estate listing, though fixtures stay as do built-ins).

DSC00964Exposed brick wall runs along the length of the house. A rack to mount bicycles to the wall just to the left of the door. Note the stunning vintage brass moose head sconces which flank the fireplace and the fabulous built-in shelving unit.DSC00930Open floor plan continues into dining area and through kitchen with a two person breakfast bar then opens out back onto beautiful patio… but I’m getting ahead of myself… let’s linger for a moment in THE KITCHEN…just humor me.DSC00941DSC00945DSC00975Whew. THAT is a sizzlin’, smokin’, dare I say sexy, “come hither and let’s spend some quality time with a sweaty brow braising, searing, roasting, and baking” kind of stove. I never thought I’d own such a beautiful piece of machinery. A white Viking range, my dear ones! Who knew that such a beauty exists? I may unroll a sleeping bag right here the first night I am able. Have I mentioned those pristine black walnut floors? Or the poured concrete countertops?DSC00951DSC01017DSC00999Half bath downstairs with a sweet old industrial sink. Back patio with slate flooring. We plan to get a nice gas grill and a dining set with a colorful umbrella and comfy seats made for lingering long after dinner. DSC01066Check out the upstairs now, shall we?DSC01070DSC01088DSC01071DSC00819DSC00806DSC00807Two full bathrooms and two bedrooms, only pictures of one bedroom here since previous owner had other set up as media room/guest room. Full sized washer and dryer in hallway and an ample amount of storage in built-in hallway closets. And finally, onward and upward.DSC01004The second bedroom opens onto this little lounging deck (seen here from above) and continues up a spiral staircase to the rooftop deck. Holy moly. It just keeps getting better.DSC00775My plan for this rooftop area is to put some comfy loungers and side tables. Though Snakes has ambitious plans of rooftop dinners, I just can’t see tip toeing up and down a spiral staircase with a steamy soup tureen and multiple wine glasses. So until he installs a dumb-waiter up the back, I think we will stick to cocktails and sweets. Every man for himself. Just one more detail I forgot to mention. Flip back through these pictures paying close attention to any ceiling shots. You see them now? Yeah, those are speakers imbedded in the ceiling of every room of the house, all controlled from a central receiver located in the kitchen. I am over the moon.

So, the tragic part. Tragic for us anyway since we have a lease through October and leave for Chile at the end of the year. A massive stroke of luck for any TDY-ers headed to DC. Starting August 1st, this heart throb on the hill is available for rent. Two bedrooms, two and a half baths. We will work with per-diem, utilities, wifi included. 1.5 blocks from Harris Teeter grocery store, Capitol bike share, Potomac metro(orange/blue line- straight shot to foggy bottom or arlington shuttle to fsi). 20 minute walk to Nationals Stadium. 15 minute walk to Eastern Market. Pet friendly, of course. Shoot me an email if you have more questions and after I dab these tears of elation from my eyes I’ll be happy to respond.

 

four months in photos

IMG_1379Back home in DC and over two months has already whizzed by. We still have not resolved our computer issues (sticky keys on one, death by glass of water for the other). Fortunately I discovered a little media center in the lobby of the building where we are staying so I am able to scratch my blogging itch. I should probably get that looked at. wallaby sweaterSo much jammed into our last few weeks in Luanda, I’ll do my best to let the pictures do the majority of the talking, but I can’t make any promises. So here we go— my knitting has finally graduated from scarves, simple camis and sofa throws to sweaters. I made this one for a friend’s new little fella, though the Bushbaby is modelling above. Sometimes it really is hard to part with these things after you’ve finished them! It’s a great lesson in detachment and enjoying the process. Something it seems we FS folks are regularly beat over the head with but that’s another story. Now I’m working on a pretty linen sweater for myself that I peck away at on weekly metro trips out to my yoga studio in Bethesda. It’s a nice way to spend the long ride from Capitol Hill. IMG_1330IMG_1331blogUpdate IMG_1244 Over Easter weekend, (our second to last weekend on the continent) we snuck in a quick trip back to Cape Town. A fabulous way to frost our African adventure cake and for Snakes to fulfill his dream of running in the 2 oceans ultra marathon. No biggie…just a 56K. Nope, not a typo, fifty-six kilometers, a hair shy of 35 miles. Just thinking about that distance makes my thighs quake for mercy. But I have to say that that man rocked it. Despite the gale force winds sweeping around the seashores, he finished at 5:13. Next day was Easter Sunday which we spent lazing about Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens picnicking and chasing after the Bushbaby.IMG_1388 IMG_1382Back to Luanda that next Monday with only around 10 days remaining. Since the embassy was closed that Thursday and we enjoy loading our schedules to the absolute max, we decided to invite everyone over for a giant bbq and farewell picnic. Around 50 people came. Snakes threw a pig leg onto his “big green egg” grill and commenced slow roasting for around 12 hours or so. I’d like to say that the turn out was due to how well loved we were at post, but I’m no fool. It was the promise of that massive smokey hunk of pork. IMG_1412 IMG_1410 IMG_1416The following day, Friday, I hosted a trunk-show with another friend. I had finally convinced our housekeeper to keep an eye on the Bushbaby one day a week while I escaped to my studio to work on some new stuff. I am so happy to report that I enjoyed it tremendously. I had worried that after all of this time away from my studio and any creative outlet- I would be comically rusty. Not true! Things turned out beautifully. Of course I only managed to photograph a few of the bags, but I’ll put the remainder up on etsy soon and my little side link will be active once again. We managed to raise a few hundred dollars for a local orphanage by donating 10% of our sales. Rather than handing over money, we elected to buy cases of diapers and formula. IMG_1089 IMG_1092 IMG_1096We packed out that next Monday- Wednesday and boarded the Houston Express back home on Thursday. We all arrived safely in Philadelphia that next Friday night where my sister-in-law was waiting, balloons in hand, to pilot the final leg of our journey back to Bethlehem, PA. We spent the next week in the gracious warmth and coziness that only a grandparent’s house can offer. Homemade goodies in the fridge, on the counter and in the oven. Springtime popping outdoors. What a way to decompress. IMG_1496 IMG_1511From there, Snakes and the dogs headed to DC to get started with Spanish training at FSI. Bushy and I boarded a flight to Denver to visit my sister and her family for a couple of weeks. Now, back in the district, back into the rhythm of this life that I’ve missed so much. So grateful for this deceptively simple freedom. We ride our bikes and play in these gorgeous public spaces that constitute our nation’s capitol. We breathe deeply and fully. Why would we ever want to leave again?IMG_1838 IMG_1921 IMG_1848 IMG_1901IMG_1740Oh yeah, and Snakes got himself a new bike. More on that later.