Country living

I’m so busy this week with back to school meetings galore! I’ve been struggling to find a schedule for artsdevivre of late, and if you’ve remarked the difference between yesterday’s posting (7:30 am), and today’s (5:42 pm to be precise), you can see I haven’t quite found it just yet.

Anywho, my new school is such a beautiful place. It’s really in the suburbs but the backdrop would fool you: Right now I’m enjoying a gentle breeze coming through the window and when I look out it, I see only a bit of parking lot, but not much else, save for the rolling green hills and huge, old trees. The soundtrack is summertime cicadas. It’s got me thinking about the beauty of living in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of city (and even suburban) life …


… A nice little daydream before another busy school year.


Dream space abroad

Today, I had intended to share a couple “bons adresses” D and I ran across last weekend in New York; however, this post on DesignSponge altered my artsdevivre schedule for the week. I had to share because it spoke so much to what artsdevivre is all about, specifically travel and home. I love the intersection between these two seemingly opposite ideas, especially making a space abroad feel like home. To understand why I found the article so compelling, you have to first know a couple of things that I have not yet shared (to my memory, which often fails me) on artsdevire ~

~My grandparents were in the Foreign Service for many years, living in places like Iran and Vietnam, and traveling to dozens of others like Russia, Korea, Egypt and Lebanon.

~I’ve always wanted to take the Foreign Service exam myself, but am still working up the courage to do so. (I’m afraid I just can’t acquire all the knowledge necessary.)

~D is currently in the process of applying to the Foreign Service. He’s done really well so far and we should have some definitive answers in about a month. I think I’m more nervous than he is!

~I dream of traveling to the Arab world. To be exact, I would really love to spend time in Beirut.

I don’t know where this fascination all came from, really. Maybe it’s hearing about my grandparents’ time in Iran (before the Shah was overthrown, in the 60s). My earliest memories of my grandparents are marked by hazy summer evenings in their old house overlooking the South River near Annapolis. For hours, we would look at grainy slides of their home and life in Teheran. The images of the mountains and fruit trees have stayed with me for twenty-five years, and I still love learning about the history of the eclectic objets they acquired through years of travel. Maybe it’s my former boss in Paris that I adored, and whose family is from Lebanon. Maybe it’s because I’m such a gourmande, and I just can’t get enough of Middle Eastern cuisine. I’m thinking it’s probably a mixture of all these experiences, plus a healthy dose of curiosity.

I usually strive to stick to concrete ideas on artsdevivre – easy ideas for recipes, home, travel or shopping – but sometimes it’s nice to just dream. Make sure to click on the link to this foreign service officer’s home (currently in Tunisia, but about to switch to Baghdad for a year before a move to Paris), and really take the time to peruse this amazing mix of old and new, antique and Etsy, handmade and Goodwill. It’s spectacular, and something that I am slowly trying to cultivate in my home, bit by bit. I’ve posted a couple of my favorite images of her home, of course giving credit to the original source in the process. Do you dream of living abroad? If so, where?

I love this vibrant blue chair (which the homeowner re-upholstered with her grandmother), against the beautifully worn carpet. I’m a sucker for books, too, so it looks like the perfect coin to curl up with a book.

I especially love the fabric wall hanging, the brass table in the bottom left corner and the mixture of soft pillows and poufs with hard wood.

This one about stopped me in my tracks since my grandmother still has an almost replica of this brass tray hanging in her entryway. The similarities between her home and this one are astounding.

I’m a sucker for maps, especially old ones, so I love the focal point this map from the 1930s plays in the dining space.

All photos via here.

Coffee table makeover

So I never really know what to do with my coffee table. It ends up as an impromptu dining table most evenings, desk during the summerdays and bed for the girls (my cats, Lily and Minnow) all days. Hmm. Less than optimal. My least favorite thing is how it morphs into a catchall for unopened mail, glasses of water and whatever else D or I happen to have in our hands upon entering the salon.

Amidst the endless hours I’ve spent on blogs this summer, I stumbled upon an idea that was totally new to me. I feel terrible because I forgot to bookmark the page and give this lovely lady credit. But here it is ~

I loved creating this collage of coffee table books, my atlas and various other photo and memory albums. Now they are no longer stuck in the corner gathering dust, the girls haven’t attempted to cozy up once and I’m hoping I’ll be more motivated to actually use the spare room we converted into an office last spring. (More on that next week.)

How do you use your coffee table? More artistically or practically? Thoughts?

Art fair photos

Following some delayed flights and a less than necessary transfer flight in Chicago, Maman and I made it back to Charm City late Monday evening. Yesterday was filled with unpacking, spending time with our menagerie of animals and catching up on sleep. I did snap some pics during our four hour long stroll through the Ann Arbor Art Fair last Friday. You’ll have to excuse the quality since I only had my blackberry to shoot with. We window shopped the hundreds of vendors, who sold various baubles like these repurposed bracelets made from street signs ~

this beautiful flora (fashioned from clay!) ~

and stunning photography ~


Clearly, I had nothing to do with this photograph! We chatted with award-winning photographer Greg Davis, whose travels all over the world have produced portraits, landscapes and detailed photos like the example above.

Although I didn’t end up purchasing any art this year, I did snap up these neon yellow Toms ~

on sale at the outdoorsy store Bivouac. My feet were very thankful after too many hours in flat sandals with zero support. Yes, I wore them out of the store. We braked after a couple of hours with a treat of key lime and vanilla frozen yogurt from Afternoon Delight cafe ~

Exhausted and ready to go home, we happened upon this beautiful passageway where local high school musicians were providing a free concert of classical music ~

It’s amazing how reminiscent it is of this one in Paris ~

It must have been the official art fair weekend, since I discovered upon my return home that I had missed Baltimore’s Artscape, which ranks #1 largest (free) art fair to Ann Arbor’s #3. What free summer time activities do you enjoy?

Ann arbor art fair

Last summer was occupied with 2 weeks of la dolce vita in Italy, but this summer is a series of mini-trips to South Carolina where I taught French at my alma mater for two weeks and then party hardied with girl friends at a bachelorette in Folley Beach. Now I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan, visiting my fabulous almost year and a half year old niece, my sister in law and my brother. I knew zero about Michigan before they moved here but let me tell you, this is a great state! Over the past several years, we’ve had many great meals here,

(I have yet to discover an establishment of which I am as enamored as Zingerman’s in downtown Ann Arbor)

strolled the streets of the quaint downtown area,


and enjoyed some less humid heat than we endure on the East Coast at this time of year. Of course, U of M sporting events are always a highlight, too 🙂

It’s so fun to discover things we never would have otherwise, like the Ann Arbor Art Fair. I breezed through yesterday on my way to (I kid you not) the best sale I’ve ever seen in my life at Urban Outfitters. Maman and I are about to head back over to check out the hundreds (thousands?) of vendors at the fair, which won #1 Art Fair in the nation in 2004. It attracts over 500,00 attendees every year!


Who knew?! Even after my brief walk through yesterday, I’d already recommend this as a great mini-cation for anyone in proximity to the area. I’ll post pictures next week, but until then, bon week-end, les amis !

April 24th. I checked the date of my last post and finally, almost two months later, I find the time to sit down and write. When I started artsdevivre, writing was a challenge, like using an out-of-shape muscle. Little by little (not surprisingly), writing began to flow from my fingertips through to the keyboard. I watched my style develop and felt constantly inspired to write (even if I didn’t do it as often as I should).

Enter an extremely busy spring and, poof!, not surprisingly, my writing muscles once again felt under-used and neglected. I let myself get sidetracked with work and many other (what seemed like at the time) extremely important, do-or-die extras and opportunities. In the end, a healthy dose of disappointment served as a reminder to pick myself back up, keep my eye on the prize and remember that usually things will not turn out just precisely as we fantasizing dreamers conjure up in our overly active imaginations. And that’s ok. In fact, I usually end up finding my artsdevivre in unanticipated blessings and moments.

So even though summer kicked off with a different than hoped-for beginning, I’m excited to spend my well-deserved vacation relaxing and writing. See y’all soon, and enjoy the day!

If we let it, daily life can become boring, monotonous and expected. I got to thinking about this after several unexpected occurrences recently. Each one constituted a sweet surprise that brightened that particular day or weekend. Following is a list of my surprises, in no particular order.

1. I certainly never wake up thinking “I bet today I’ll ride a Harley (Davidson)”. But a couple of weeks ago on duty, I did just that. Another resident of my lovely boarding school bubble owns one, never takes it out and so invited me for a spin. Oddly enough, my motorcycle jaunt reminded of former joy rides on the Vélib (a pick up and drop off bike system in Paris). The wind in my face and beautiful scenery whooshed me back to about a year and a half ago in Paris, when I had just hung a left off of the rue de Rivoli (anyone who knows Paris I hope is giving me some respect for navigating a bike down that cluster of a street) and through the archways leading to the Louvre.  Just as I passed through the old, city-grime-covered entryway into the courtyard, the sun burst from behind the clouds, bouncing off every surface in site: the pyramids, the fountain afield in the Jardin de Tuileries, the expansive windows offering glimpses into the museum’s gargantuan galleries. Blown away, I felt a goofy grin take over my features as I slowly pedaled through and appreciated my awesome surroundings.

Contrary to what one may think, I felt this exact sensation whilst speeding down Highway 272 in C.T., greedily drinking in the countryside bursting in springtime color. The light greens of the fields mingled with the pinks and whites and yellows of springtime flowers, creating a painting that would easily belong if not in the Louvre then certainly in Orsay.

2. I never think “You know, I bet flowers need sleep, too”. But they do, and I had forgotten that. No gardener am I, but when I walked out of my apartment especially early one morning, I noticed the rosy pink tulips next to my stoop were all closed up for the night. By the time I came back to capture the moment, they had begun to unfold, and here’s what they looked like:

Sleepy tulips

There is an unspeakable whimsy to the fact that flowers will tuck themselves in for the dark hours, and then stir themselves slowly to greet the day. At least I think so.

3. I never thought I would become enamored of Hoboken, NJ. It’s not that I thought I would dislike Hoboken, I just didn’t really give it any thought either way. But over a visit to NY last weekend (during which, you guessed it, we stayed in Hoboken), I learned that this city with a quirky name is a haven of charm and energy. Street after street of stately, old, row homes wowed me. Boutiques, cafés, restaurants and delis abounded, and a collage of different people dotted the streets, parks and sidewalks. Milling the streets, observing the architecture, soaking up the sun, the whole experience certainly made my heart tug for city life. Even I, who work daily on eternal optimism, am not going to lie and assert that I returned to C.T. glad for the peace that rural living affords. However, my Hoboken/NY field trip reconfirmed my eventual need to be back in a cosmopolitan setting. And it was a comfort to feel a part of a city again, if only for a moment.

Anyways. These are some of my most recent artsdevivre moments. They certainly brightened up my past weeks. They’ve been stored up in my head for long enough and I was afraid if I didn’t go ahead and record them, they’d got lost in the maze of papers, grades, comments and class preps that currently constitutes my brain.

I hope you’ve had some recently, too. If you’ve been too busy to notice yours, go ahead and try. I think it’ll put ya in a good mood.