Looking at 40

I turn 40 this year.  It's getting easier to say that, btw.  For some time, I've been dreaming about the ultimate getaway trip to celebrate this milestone.  You know, how you picture yourself somewhere fabulous, doing fabulous things you otherwise never get to to do?  I don't know, like sleeping in late, or lounging near a beautiful pool without wondering if your kids are drowning.  Casually browsing mesmerizing shopfronts, or lingering over dinner with your Significant.  You get the idea.

I've alway dreamed of Morocco as an incredible destination.   Can you imagine?  The sights, the aromas (spice heaven!), the shopping (I might as well book an export crate for the rugs, baskets, etc). Over the past, oh, five years or so, Morocco has blossomed as a legit and luxurious destination for Americans, but, over the past, oh, year or so, there's also been a lot of scary shiznit happening that might make you think twice about your personal security in that locale. 

So, let's just say I've had a rethinking.  Somewhere a little closer, a little less likely to see you captured and beheaded for your beliefs, but by all accounts (and we've done some Intel), incredible.

Panama.  I'm lookin' at you.  Specifically, the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo.  It's uh-maze.  A design junkie's end all. 

Check it.

The Lobby bar, and a guest suite.  I'm all about a contrasting black trim; we've done some in our own house, and I love the crisp-ness it adds to a room.  I love it even more the way it's paired with the amazing wood floors.

They have me at hello with that perfect Trad/Colonial facade tricked out with contemporary iron-framed glass on the main floor, and yeah, you might convince me to soak in that tub. #bathdesignporn

Just stop already with the badass tile situations, 'K.  If our newly-finished study had a Central American sister, this space would be it.

Your choice of cocktail-serving spaces. (There's a pool, too.  Case you were wonderin'}

Yeeeah.  I think it might work.  For what we'll save in time and airfare, we could stay an extra day to take in more cool stuff.

Forty's not looking' so bad, ya'll.


*images by



American Trade Hotel

 - An Ace Hotel

Recap: Weekend in Rio

So, I had a little getaway to Rio this weekend. I won't lie - it was awesome. Weather was awesome, being a kid-free adult was awesome, doing whatever we wanted was awesome. Ben travels a lot for work, and doing the single-parent thing while he's gone is rough. It helps to make up for it, though, when we get the rare opportunity to recharge on our own. The Recap...

When I arrived (Ben was already there), I was amazed at the view from our room - Copacabana Beach.
Ha! That would've been more than rad - that was the view from the restaurant.

THIS was the view from our room - not shabby - see the full moon rising?

We toasted our weekend with a starter of pineapple and berry caiprioskas (caiprinhas made with vodka)


...and proceeded to get just toasty enough to brave a (dark and fuzzy) pic of the zealous couple next to us at dinner

Saturday morning, we walked all along the famed Ipanema beach and its charming neighborhood. I think we walked for more than two hours, so I justified the whale's worth of sushi I ingested for lunch.

Later, we took a tour of Pão de Açúcar (The Sugar Loaf) mountain via one of these...

The views of the city and beaches are great...

(Someone knows how to live well - I need them as friends)


...but I'm much happier on terra firma, with a mid-afternoon espresso

Saturday night: Date Night. (We'll forgive Ben his shoes...this time)

Dinner overlooking the city. I think he was trying to seduce me ;)

...by ordering drinks

The food was as good as the view - dessert, phenomenal. I'll be working off the food from this weekend for the next two weeks. *sigh*

Sunday morning was all about the Ipanema Hippie Fair - an art, artisan, and craft show. It's always a must-do when I visit Rio. I considered this cowhide, but it wasn't quite right...

Totally bummed I forgot to go back and buy one of these leather cuffs

The folk art scene is always interesting and lively

We've eyed these chairs the last couple of times we've seen them. They have a large selection of leather or hide "inserts," and they're amazingly comfortable.


We couldn't decide on a pattern, or where we'd put the chair, so we passed. All in all, it was a very uneventful shopping trip. We didn't even bring home a small painting, but that's fine by me, since I finally snagged this Michelle Armas this morning.

graphite by Michelle Armas
Relish "Graphite," but don't covet - she's spoken for.

And, your weekend was????

Before I head North...

I should be packing. Instead I'm blogging. I hate to pack. Its all the more intolerable since I have to pack for myself and two kiddos whilst hubster only has to cover for himself Gasp! Did I really out him? ;)
So, for all the dreading of overcrowded airports, packed-to-the-gills aircraft, and a sleepless night - I'll instead take my thoughts on toward cheerier and calmer locales...

One for the record books

Do you remember when air travel was easy, fun, even exciting? Probably sometime before 9/11 for most of us.
After twelve weeks, five flight changes, and two missed connections, we finally arrived at our house in Brazil on Tuesday.
Are you ready for the tale? Hope you have your coffee (or other choice beverage) in hand...
*Pics of ordeal not available. See inserted inspiration images for monologue relief*

Saturday, the 24th was my birthday. We had finally received Isla's visa after a twelve week ordeal of government bureaucracy, and we were scheduled to fly home. The girls and I had been in Texas, while Ben worked both in Brazil, and The States, so it was actually a great gift to finally have my family together. The plan was for me to fly with the girls from Houston to Atlanta, where I'd meet up with Ben for the overnight direct flight to Brasilia.
A garden I need - San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

When I checked in in Houston - six bags and two kids in tow - I asked the "kind" lady at the counter if she could give a birthday girl some decent seats. Instead I got, "Well, I can give you some bad news on your birthday - your flight has been delayed - you'll get in thirty minutes before your flight to Brazil departs."
I took a deep breath, and just prayed we'd make it - maybe Ben could tell the gate keepers in Atlanta our situation, and they'd wait. I must not have much pull with my prayers, because very shortly thereafter, the flight was further delayed, making it impossible to make our connection.
The direct flights are only offered three times a week, so I knew the earliest we could catch the next flight was Monday, and the agents said there weren't any seats available, anyway. Tears. Restless and tired kids in an airport is not a happy place.
My make-believe Parisian pied à terre

Fast forward to Atlanta. My flight arrived about ten minutes before the Brazil flight was set to take off, so I grabbed the girls, and started to haul it, but Ben met us, and said our seats had been given to standbys. We had to go to the re-booking counter, a train ride three concourses down.

When we got to the counter, I realized I didn't have my carry-on, which I had gate checked. The carry on that contained my $$$ camera/lenses, laptop, iPod, prescription meds, jewelry, oh, and all of Isla's new social security and birth certificate cards. It was a flippin' goldmine for someone with sticky fingers, and I was beside myself. Picture a frantic woman with baby in Bjorn running down the concourse back to the gate - that was me. At the gate - no dice - no one had seen it. Had I left it? I don't know - I was in a serious hurry. It wasn't with the stroller and car seat I had also checked. Again, tears.
Bookshelf goodness

Two hours later - about midnight - the international desk found us seats to fly Monday night, but they weren't direct - we'd have to route through Rio. OK, fine - we just needed sleep. Both girls were still awake - and totally, totally out of their minds tired.

We were told our bags were in a holding area, one we couldn't get to since it was so late. So they sent us on our way to a meager hotel, with a "care kit" that contained a t shirt, a toothbrush, and that's about it. But, before we left, I made a claim for my missing bag.

It was after 2 am Sunday when we all crashed. Happy Birthday to me.
Despite the trendiness, I still love this type of art - for the sheer thundering movement of it

Monday, we were back at the airport, trying to get our bags - for the diapers, changes of clothes we so desperately needed. Good news: bags arrived AND my carry on had shown up in Oklahoma City, and could be sent back later that afternoon. Good thing I got that file started the night before! Major happy dance ensued.

We took a long afternoon nap, and Ben retrieved my carry on that evening - everything intact. Dear God, I know these are not the important things in life, but I owe you one.
Settee and ottoman prettiness

Monday, refreshed with a full-night's rest, we took the girls on the MARTA downtown to the Children's Museum, where Avery had a blast. Took naps and showers, and got ready for our flight.

Before we took the shuttle, I asked Ben to check our flight status (our luck, you know) He got quiet - not good - then said, "Business."
Me: "Hmm?"
Ben: "Business - we got bumped to business - all of us."
With new spring in our step, we headed to ATL with plenty of time to spare.
Get out of my way, I'm jumping in first!

Then, watched out the windows as the Heavens opened up, and released an enormous deluge. We nervously watched the flight status - it stayed On Time.

We boarded, settled, and began smugly sipping champagne, when the Captain came on the overhead saying we were missing about 70 passengers who were delayed by weather - we would wait for them - for two hours. (Kinda wish they'd offered US that courtesy) Oh well - we were comfy, so it didn't smart as much.

But, it did make us miss our connection in Rio. Ugh, and freakin' ugh BUT with the help of a gracious airline valet - we were rebooked for the next flight, which boarded immediately.
My dream house would most likely have a similar courtyard

It's a short flight - Rio to Brasilia - less than two hours, but we and our kids were toast. Too little sleep. Too much confinement, and our now oh-so-refined rear ends felt especially punished by the coach seats.

We walked in the door of Casa Giese around 3:30 on Tuesday, beat to a pulp, but together, and home.
Avery 3 years, Isla 3 months

They're taking me to Marrekesh

This past November, the city of Marrakesh unveiled its La Mamounia hotel after a three-year renovation. The historic hotel has long held legendary status as the place to stay inside the Medina - or ancient walled city. However, years of cheesy attempts at facelifts left it a remnant of its former magical self.
That was before French designer Jacques Garcia got a hold of it, and restored it to the sort of opulent splendor one associates with Morocco.
Call me Penny Lane, but I've always had an obsession with all things Moroccan, and the recent images of the virtual oasis have done nothing to diminish my wanderlust...

The foyer and entrance into one of the deluxe suites - resplendent in traditional moorish tiles, dark wood, and ottoman arches.
And inside the suite - what a view! Supposedly, hotels and riads (villas) purposely keep the decor of the rooms dim, to help provide respite against the blazing North African sun. Whatever this formula is, it works.
The courtyard of one the four gourmet restaurants - I can just see myself sipping mint tea out of silver cups while wearing a gorgeous caftan and babouches!
That is, if you could pull me away from the spa or swimming pool.
There is so much lore associated with Morocco, the famous souks being a large part of it. The souks are vendor stalls which make up the ancient labyrinth market where you can find many inexpensive berber items such as baskets, pottery and spices, alongside fine carpets. Outside the flea markets of Paris, I really cannot fathom a more amazing shopping experience.
Unfortunately, the famed city is not in my travel itinerary anytime very soon, so whenever I see designers bringing home the Ottoman vibe, I get a little thrill, and the chance to live vicariously.

There's Windsor Smith's fabric, Riad - a take on Moroccan tile - seen here on a sofa and chair in her home. This fabric has moved beyond "It" to "Classic" status, in my opinion.
This bathroom by Robin Bell, featured in House Beautiful is clearly an homage to classic Moroccan elements: arches and tile.
Designer Cathy Kincaid used Ann Sack's Moroccan Cross and Star tiles to bring in a distinct ethnic style to this bath.
Ann Sacks tile might be out of budget for most of us, but a special feature in a vanity or stove alcove might be feasible.
Design by Erin Gates of Elements of Style
And, if a bath or kitchen overhaul is still beyond budget, I've spied any number of discount spots (HomeGoods, IKEA, Ebay) with items similar to these that can instantly add a touch of "been there" to a space.
What exotic locale is on your "must see in this lifetime" list?