Polar Light: One Last Dose of Winter

Chandelier 1“Polar Light,” by Arturo Erbsman

It was a long, harsh winter here in Boston, with nasty weather lasting well into March. After weeks of desperately willing warm weather back to the Northeast, though, it seems it’s finally here to stay. So, I’m finding it a touch ironic that the latest object I’m lusting over is a light fixture that’s at its best when the weather’s at its frigid worst. “Polar Light” is an icicle chandelier created by Arturo Erbsman, a young French designer whose work highlights the intersection of manufactured objects and the four elements of nature. The chandelier, which is composed of metal and mesh, was designed specifically to be hung from the branches of a tree in winter, where it captures water that ultimately freezes and forms ice-coated stalactites. Light passing through the ice creates the beautiful ghostly effect pictured above. It almost - almost - makes me wish for one last blast of winter.

Chandelier 4

Chandelier 5

Erbsman showed Polar Light at Milan Design Week 2013. He returned to this year’s event (it wraps up tomorrow) to show his latest series, Water Lamps. Two of my favorites from Erbsman’s new series are “Atmos,” an atmospheric lamp that uses the condensation of water to diffuse light, and “Cumulus,” which the designer calls a “personal cloud storage lamp.”

Atmos“Atmos,” by Arturo Erbsman

Cumulus“Cumulus,” by Arturo Erbsman

What’s your favorite design twist on an everyday object?

 

Graphic (Interior) Design

Graphic Living RoomMy fiancé and I are currently awaiting word on an application we submitted for a new (to us) apartment in Boston’s South End. In addition to dreaming about our easier commutes and the fresh crop of restaurants and bars to check out, the moving process has gotten me thinking a lot about how I’d like to decorate the place. Its exterior is brick, and its inside is light-filled with blonde wood floors. (It’s a nice change from our current place, which feels dark and old, but not in a charming way.) What we’ll decide on remains TBD, but lately I’ve been drawn to graphic pieces with clean lines, neutral colors, and a bold pop of color here and there. A few of these are already sold out, but I love them nonetheless.

1. Plaid blanket (sold out, but wouldn’t you love to look around here for something just as fab?).

2. Chic striped beach towel, which I’d use as a throw.

3. Architectural steel pendant light.

4. Midcentury-modern club chair.

5. Zig-zag pillow (only $22!).

6. Brooklyn Bridge pillow (I’m determined to get this no matter what else we decide on).

7. Cat treat jar (sold out from Crate & Barrel a long time ago).

What’s your interior-design style?

Favorite Find: Joerg Daiber’s “Little Big World”

The earliest hours of Saturday morning are among my favorite of the week (second only to the earliest hours of Friday evening, when an entire weekend lies ahead). I usually spend this precious quiet time Pinning and catching up on books, blogs, magazines, and social media. This morning, my mind turned to travel (no surprise there) after finding some fascinating photos and videos on Twitter from faraway places like ChinaJapan, and Norway, as well as cities here in the USA.

My favorite discovery of the morning by far, however, is “Little Big World,” a video series by German filmmaker Joerg Daiber. Daiber’s mini-movies depict daily life in destinations around the world in time-lapse and tilt-shift form, which creates a miniaturized effect – like toy villages sprung to life. Adding to their whimsy are equally fast-moving musical selections, many of which are classical. The combination of scenery, movement, and music makes me want to belly laugh, hold my breath, and cry, all at the same time. They’re pretty magical. Below are a few of my early favorites, but you can see 30-some-odd more on Daiber’s YouTube channel (I’ve already subscribed). Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Tell me: Who are your favorite travel photographers and filmmakers?

Honeymoon Scheming: Part 1

Now that my fiancé and I have set a wedding date, I can’t help but let my mind wander a few steps ahead to our honeymoon. It’s been a long, cold, and snowy winter in Boston, so I’ve been dreaming of far-off destinations soaked with sunshine. But I’ve never been a big fan of laying on the beach for hours and hours on end and I don’t want to spend an entire honeymoon doing that (though, on this 20-degree night, I would happily reconsider). I’ve been scanning the globe in my mind, trying to think of sunny spots that offer a perfect mix of ways to relax and explore. My ideal trip would include some beach time, but mostly a combination of city and country locales where we could enjoy rustic hotels and scenery, wine tastings, long drives with the top down, exploring old city or town streets, lots of simple, rustic, and delicious food, authentic shopping spots for art and ceramics, and ample opportunity for peace, quiet, and tranquility. Who knows if we’ll find a place that captures all of that, but here are two options that seem to come close.

Argentina & Uruguay

I first fell in love with South America when I traveled to Peru with Inkaterra in 2007 (read that article here). I especially loved the Urubamba Valley’s massive mountains, vast blue sky, and golden light, which is how I picture Argentina and Uruguay to be. (Judging from some of these pics, I’m not far off.) Of course, a South American honeymoon wouldn’t be complete without a few days and nights in Buenos Aires, widely known as the Paris of South America. Perhaps a tango lesson or two?

buenos-airesRomantic architecture and cobblestone streets in Buenos Aires (Photo via With Love From Kat)

The Vines Resort SpaMendoza, Argentina (Photo via The Vines Resort & Spa)

Usuai ArgentinaUshuaia, Argentina (Photo via Huffington Post)

Four Seasons Carmelo UruguayPoolside in Carmelo, Uruguay (Photo via the Four Seasons Resort Carmelo Uruguay)

SunsetSunset in Montevideo, Uruguay (Photo via Tumblr)

Italy

A week filled with pizza, pasta, gelato, and wine – lots of wine! – seems like the perfect way to celebrate our marriage. Early autumn in Rome sounds (and looks) so romantic! My dream trip to Italy would include a few days exploring every nook and cranny of Rome, followed by a few on the Amalfi Coast (if you’ve never been to the island of Ischia, I highly recommend it!), and a relaxing finale in Tuscany (riding bikes, reading by the pool, sleeping in, touring historic homes, and, yep – sipping wine). I’ve been to Italy twice already – once in high school and once on an assignment, but never as a plain-old grown-up tourist. I love to think about experiencing Italy’s romantic side with my future hubby. 

Rome in the fallRoman streets in autumn (Photo via Kerry Murray Photography for AFAR) 

???????????????????????????????The Spanish Steps and Hotel Hassler (Photo via Forbes)

hotel de russieHotel De Russie’s magical and romantic garden courtyard (Photo via Rocco Forte Hotels)

mezzatoreDusk on the island of Ischia (Photo via Leading Hotels of the World)

tuscanyAnd they lived happily ever after…in a Tuscan vineyard. Does it get any better? (Photo via National Geographic)

Where did you go on your honeymoon? If you could go on a second one, which way would you head?

Reading List

I’ve had books on my mind a lot lately. I’ve always been a reader, but my intake has slowed a lot over the years, especially when I moved to a Boston suburb two years ago and started driving everywhere. (Public transportation – especially Boston’s, which is plagued by breakdowns and delays – is a godsend for people who like to gobble up books. Driving? Not so much.) I did manage to get through a few books last year, but right now I’m eyeing the stack that’s been piled up on my bedside table collecting dust. I have a bizarre habit of buying books in twos (I’m a lit-tle indecisive), so the stack has been growing at a rate that far exceeds my actual reading. I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these and, if so, what you thought.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden

In my previous job as a magazine editor, a reader once emailed me to pitch a story about a road trip down South that he and his wife were about to take in search of the place where they’d retire. Charleston, SC, and Savannah, GA, were on their list of spots. In his email, he tied books in with the destinations that the couple were to visit. This one corresponded with their visit to Savannah, and I immediately ordered it. (Along with South of Broad, by Pat Conroy, his corresponding read for Charleston. I read that one right away because, well, you know.)

Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon

Telegraph Avenue

A couple of years ago I read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, another novel by Michael Chabon. I can’t count the number of times I’d picked that book up on visits to various bookstores and left without buying it. I don’t know what finally possessed me to buy it, but I did, and it remains one of the greatest books I’ve read. I’ve had Telegraph Avenue on my bookshelf for quite a while, and I even started it one weekend, but I haven’t picked it up since. Maybe I’m afraid it won’t measure up to K&C.

 Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple

Bernadette NPR

I don’t know much about this book yet, other than the rave reviews I’ve heard going around the halls at work. I bought this one along with Jess Walter’s novel Beautiful Ruins, which I finished at Christmastime (and highly recommend). I’ve been eager to crack it open but just haven’t done it yet. If nothing else, the cover has been fun to look at every night.

The Lace Reader, by Brunonia Barry

Lace Reader

This is another one I don’t know much about. It was sent to my office at the magazine, as was often the case with books written by authors from Massachusetts and, more specifically, the North Shore (Barry lives in Salem). I love the idea of exploring work by local authors, which takes me to…

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro 

Art Forger

This book has a certain draw for me because it’s inspired by a real art heist that happened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

Running

Last, but not least, this is the book I’m currently “reading” (I’m about 20 pages in and started it right around the New Year, so it’s been slow going). I’ve never been a runner and don’t care to be, but when I discovered the book in a post by Damsel in Dior, one of my favorite fashion blogs, I was intrigued. A lot of fashion blogs are about just that – clothes – but I like Damsel for its author’s thoughtful, introspective, and sometimes heady posts. She gets inside her own head a lot, as do I, and credits running for her ability to find clarity and peace of mind. This book is what inspired her new running hobby, and I thought, if nothing else, it might help me find a new way to sort out my own web-like thoughts. If I learn to like running, well, I’ll consider it a bonus.

Tell me: Have you read any of these books? What did you think? And what do you recommend?

New Year, New Food: Ethiopian

One of the go-to ways my fiance and I like to celebrate special occasions is with dinner out, either at a restaurant we haven’t yet been to or a splurge at one of our favorites. New Year’s Eve was no exception. Occasionally, I pick him up from work near Boston’s South End, and on my drive to his office I always pass a little Ethiopian restaurant called Addis Red Sea. After commenting several times that we should try it, we decided to do it, so we made a reservation for New Year’s Eve. Afterward, we were so glad we did.

Addis

Ethiopian food is particularly unique (or different from anything I’ve ever had, anyway) in that there’s no flatware involved. Instead, a moist, spongy flatbread called injera is used to pinch and scoop up mouthfuls of food. It. Is. Phenomenal. As for the food itself, we ordered an appetizer of sambusas: hot, crusty pastry triangles stuffed with meaty lentils cooked in spices like garlic and nutmeg. (They should just be called “crack pockets” on the menu.) For our main, we ordered platters of chicken (doro wat) and fish (yasa wot) cut up and cooked in a blend of fragrant spices and oils and served with multiple vegetarian side dishes made with lentils (yesmir wot), chick peas (butecha), collard greens (gomen wot), and cracked wheat (kinche). All of the dishes arrived at our table on one large platter, atop two huge pieces of injera. (It was made fabulously soggy and tasty by the sauces and spices that soaked into it. One characteristic I inherited from my dad is that I love sauces, spreads, sides, and dips, and combining flavors, and this was right down my alley, as many of the side dishes were served in stewed or paste forms.) Though they were aromatic and full of flavor, nothing burned our tastebuds off – a nice bonus. If you’ve ever tried Indian food, you might draw some parallels between it and Ethiopian food, but the flavors are still distinct to each type of cuisine.

platters

As for drinks, Addis offers a few Ethiopian wines and African beers. When in Rome, right? Knowing my food would be at least a little spicy, I opted for a glass of Axum Tej, a honey wine with a sweet flavor comparable to some dessert wines I’ve tried. The sweetness was perfectly suited to our spicy food. My date tried a glass of Gouder red wine, an Ethiopian wine with a nice mild flavor. Once we got down to eating with our fingers and scooping up soggy pieces of injera, though, beer felt a little more appropriate, so we ordered up bottles of Tusker, a light and (in my opinion) fruity lager from Kenya, which I’d drunk while on safari there a few years ago. The coldness, fruitiness, and fizziness of the Tusker was another great match for our fabulous meal.

Tusker

If you live in a city or town where there’s an Ethiopian restaurant, I’d highly recommend it, not only for the food, but for the cultural experience, as well.

መልካም አዲስ አመት, Melkam Addis Amet, and Happy New Year!

Travel Highlights of 2013

The end of another year has come, and with it, the rush of year-end Lists. Including this one, which recaps my favorite travel memories from 2013. Depending on when you ask me, I might say these experiences are listed chronologically, randomly, or in order of which I enjoyed most. The feeling changes daily. Each was so special, it’s hard to rank one above the other. (Though if you forced my hand, one certain Southern city played such a significant role in my life this year that it would win with little contest.) Here’s where I spent my 2013.

Barbados

In January, I traveled to Barbados to check out Cobblers Cove. My visit to this Relais & Chateaux property felt more like a stay at the cozy beach home of a good friend – who also happens to be an awesome chef. My days in Barbados were spent exploring the island – including its rum plantations, windmills, and beaches – and relaxing by Cobblers Cove’s pool and on my patio to the sound of wind and waves. Heaven!

Charleston, SC

Have I told y’all that I have a little thing for this romantic Southern city? Yeah? I thought so. I made my first trip to the Holy City in March to visit Charleston Place hotel, and it was love at first sight (or perhaps more accurately, at first bite of pimento cheese). A horse-drawn-carriage ride through the city’s historic streets. Strolling its Palmetto-lined sidewalks. And savoring every last bite of its come-home-to-mama food. In October, I returned to Charleston for a weekend getaway and got engaged to my now fiancé there, forever cementing the city’s place in my heart. Someday I’ll live there. I just know it.

Seattle

May took me to Seattle, which was a particularly special trip as I met up with my mom there for a girls’ weekend spent playing tourist, shopping, and tasting our way around the city. (And it was sunny the whole time!) We stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, took a ferry to Bainbridge Island, explored the quiet neighborhood of Fremont, snapped pics from the top of the Space Needle, and toured the city’s old underbelly (read: in tunnels underground). Of course, we stopped to smell fresh flowers and chat with fishmongers at Pike’s Place Market, too. I never got around to completing a blog post about the trip, but you can read the article I wrote here.)

Little Palm Island & Key West

I’ve had my fair share of battles with the state of Florida after living there for 18 months after college, but a return visit there in 2012 all but erased the awful memories I had of the place. I went back once again in June and was shocked to have one of my all-time-favorite hotel stays, at Little Palm Island. This magical spot is a wonderland of lush palms, soft sand, and turquoise sea and sky. Key deer roam freely (mostly) around the property, a fabulous spa offers hypnotic massages and body treatments, and its chef and restaurant serve incredible food that draws mainland and non-guest diners.

After our visit to Little Palm, we headed over to Key West. We stayed at Ocean Key Resort & Spa, whose location on Duval Street is just about impossible to beat. We rode bikes around town, toured Ernest Hemingway’s house, and marveled at the happy, eccentric mix of tourists and locals that were constantly milling around.

Summer Staycations

When I wasn’t traveling out of town/state/country, I spent time exploring right here in my own backyard. A few of my favorite excursions included a day trip north to Portsmouth, NH; an afternoon at Crane Beach, a favorite spot in Ipswich, MA; a trip to Plum Island, near Newburyport on Massachusetts’s North Shore; and even a long walk through a boiling-hot and humid Auburn Cemetery, just a few minutes from our home in Brighton.

Here’s to a fabulous year of travel in 2013, and new adventures to come in 2014 (including a honeymoon (!), whose destination is still TBD). Where did your travels take you this year?

Happy New Year, and happy travels!

(Oh, yeah, one last thing: All photos in this post were taken by me. Thanks for giving proper credit if you share them.)

Wild Goose Chase: The Hunt for a Wedding Venue

I’ve never been one of those girls who dreamed of a fairytale wedding from an early age. But one thing I always assumed is that the process of picking a wedding date and venue would be a pretty simple one. I was so wrong. I got engaged back in October (on what turned out to be a fairytale trip to Charleston, SC), and two months later my fiancé and I are still struggling to nail down the when and where of our big day. We’ve considered a destination wedding in Napa, a farm wedding in the Virginia hills, a hometown wedding in West Virginia, a romantic dock wedding in Charleston, an estate wedding on the North Shore, and a City Hall ceremony in Boston, among other options. With family and friends spread all over the country and a desire to not spend our entire life savings on the occasion, we’ve explored every option, with visions of our day constantly changing.

Throughout our search for a venue, I’ve found the blogs of other brides-to-be a big help. There are plenty blogs of the sort out there already, but I thought it would be fun (and hopefully helpful) to share a few of my own favorite places found during our search. We’ve crossed almost all of them off our list for one reason or another (mostly budget), but they’re still fun to dream about. 

Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

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Photo via Patricia Lyons Photography and Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

The one setting that kept coming to mind when I did start thinking of our wedding day was a rustic, romantic farm with great style. Early in our search, I discovered Pippin Hill, near Charlottesville, VA, in a post on the blog Delight by Design. Bingo. Bullseye. This was it. I was ready to sign on the dotted line. But once the high of finding my dream spot in just a couple days’ time wore off and we started crunching numbers via email with one of their very helpful sales staffers, it became clear that Pippin Hill just wasn’t within reach. Still, I’m going to make it my mission to get there for a farm dinner on a long weekend some summer or fall.

Early Mountain Vineyards
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Photo via Early Mountain Vineyards

Once we discovered (and ruled out) Pippin Hill, we continued our search in the Charlottesville area, enamored of its green, misty mountains and low-key vibe, as well as its somewhat convenient location for family members. We soon found Early Mountain Vineyards, whose Event Hall is a gorgeous, simple space complete with a working fireplace and tall windows. Early Mountain’s sales staff were very responsive and helpful, which we found a big plus. Sigh. Another spot to visit on a romantic weekend getaway down the road.

Boone Hall Plantation
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Photo via Clay Austin Photography

Oh, Charleston. What else can I say? By now, everyone knows about my deep and blinding love for this town. And after getting engaged there in October, it made sense to include this little Southern utopia in our search. What I learned: Even if you’re 100% certain that you’re going to get married in Charleston, your search for a venue is likely to be overwhelming. There are just that many gorgeous spots to choose from. But for me, Boone Hall Plantation in nearby Mount Pleasant is the spot I kept coming back to. And I’m not alone in my love for it. Turns out, Boone Hall is a pretty hot spot for Southern belle brides and their grooms, but it’s also enjoyed more time in the spotlight lately thanks to a certain couple of A-list stunners who were recently married there. The property is replete with willowy live Oak trees dripping with Spanish moss (I think I’d be satisfied having just one photo of us walking through the plantation’s famous Avenue of Oaks), and just oozes rustic romance in the golden evening light. Weddings —and places —don’t get much more gorgeous than that. Sadly for us, we were lacking the movie star budget we soon felt we’d need to have our wedding there.

Glen Magna Farms
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Photo via Leah Haydock Photography and TheKnot.com

Over time, we realized that, living in Boston, we had a wealth of wedding venues to consider right here in our own backyard. A friend who’s also a wedding photographer suggested we look into Glen Magna Farms, a historic mansion located in Danvers, a short drive north of the city. One cold, ugly, drizzly day in November, we met with a coordinator and toured the property. Even on that raw and dismal day, we could feel the mansion’s warmth and we could picture an intimate and elegant but homey event with our family and friends. The mansion was in the process of getting a total interior makeover primarily in a palette of gold, cream, and gray (my favorite), which only sweetened the pot. We would have our ceremony in the beautiful garden behind the house, and our family and friends would be able to move around freely inside the house, in its gardens, and on its lawn, for the fun that would happen afterward. We went so far as to put a hold on a date at Glen Magna but ultimately decided it was more than we wanted to spend. If you’re planning a Boston-area wedding and money’s no issue, do yourself a favor and check out Glen Magna.

Graceland Inn, Davis & Elkins College
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Photo via Davis & Elkins College

I grew up in a beautiful mountain town in West Virginia, and I always love my visits there. It’s a quiet, pretty place, and it will always be my home. Naturally, we put it on our list, zeroing in on the Graceland Inn, a historic mansion on the campus of Davis & Elkins College. The thought of getting married in my hometown, a place my fiancé also loves, appealed early on, but its location made us loath to put it atop our list. The nearest major airport is in Pittsburgh, PA, and is a three-hour drive away. We weren’t sure how we felt about inviting guests to a hometown wedding that required not only a flight for most of them, but also a car rental and a three-hour drive each way. We knew that if we went this route, we’d be risking a really small turnout. Which would have been okay – but we’ve been excited to use our wedding as an opportunity to gather our families and closest friends in the same place at the same time, and we didn’t want to jeopardize that. And, it has to be said, it’s been difficult at best to get anyone there to reply to our requests for information. That didn’t help the case for a hometown event. I imagine one of the highlights of a wedding there would be drinking champagne and laughing with our guests on the mansion’s porch, which offers some pretty amazing views.

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Photo via Davis & Elkins College

While the verdict isn’t totally in on this hometown spot, for now I have my sights — and heart — set on one remaining venue, but I’ll wait before sharing more on that lest I somehow jinx us. All I’ll say is that it’s local, and it’s totally different from the rustic farm wedding I pictured at the beginning of our search. The only saving grace amid the frustration of our search has been keeping an open mind and not getting too set on any one idea. We quickly learned that doing that would only lead to disappointment when options started falling through. Hopefully, we’ll have good news —and a date — to share soon.

Happy hunting!

Black Friday Booty

It’s been quite a while since my last post. My (not-so-new-anymore) new job has been keeping me incredibly busy, but some fun projects of late at work have inspired me to pick the blog back up again. I’ve met and worked with so many amazing people who manage to keep their blogs current. If they can do it, so can I.

This time, if for no other reason to organize my own thoughts and start a log of my Christmas shopping efforts, this post is all about Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. Some of the deals have been too good to pass up, so along the way I’ve been adopting an “a gift for them, a gift for me” approach. (All of the items below were marked down even further from the prices shown – so it’s justified! Right? Plus, I had my eye on a few of these items for a potential warm-weather honeymoon next year, so these finds are doubly justified.) Here are some of my scores, so far (less any gifts, in case anyone I’m shopping for finds this).

CLUB MONACO

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Alexia Knit Leather, $99 (on sale)

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Haley Striped Knit Dress, $119 (on sale)

LORD & TAYLOR

Paint-Check-Richie-Dress SMALLER

French Connection Paint Check ‘Richie’ Dress, $59.24 (on sale)

CALYPSO ST. BARTH

Pom Pom Hat CROP

‘Carrie’ Pom Pom Hat, $14.50 (major sale!)

Caracas Sisal Tote CROP
Caracas Sisal Tote, $64.50 (on sale, further reduced)

MADEWELL

Madewell Dress
Twirl Dress in Windowpane Plaid, $138 (25% off with code Feast25)

Looking forward to Cyber Monday and, hopefully, scoring more great deals. Happy shopping!