November 19, 2012

Social Mornings

B&B Wallpaper

No one would call me a morning person. Nor could I be accused of being an extrovert. So why would I want to spend my vacation time socializing with strangers, first thing in the morning?

You can believe I was asking myself this very question on our most recent vacation, when we decided to go the B&B route for lodging. Bed and Breakfasts look so appealing from an architecture and off-the-beaten-track perspective. You get to check out someone’s fancy old, or new, house and whatever crazy furniture they’ve put into it. Plus, B&B’s tend to be in neighborhoods rather than tourist areas, so I can pretend for a few days that I’m a local.

We had fancy, rich breakfasts, with plenty of eggs and tomatoes, while we chatted with our fellow guests around a communal table. Sounds great, except I would dread coming-up with chit-chat before my coffee. After the social hour, those composed breakfasts would sit in my stomach like a lead weight, making our long days of adventure off to a series of rocky starts and irritability.

This post is more a reminder to my future self, than a particular story. Remember Marijka! B&Bs may not be the right place for us to stay. We’d be better off with an apartment rental like Air B&B or VRBO or even a regular hotel.

The photo above is the wallpaper in one of our B&B rooms. I’m still trying to figure out how I can hang some of that paper in my own house! Reminds me of the British Sherlock rooms.

May 9, 2012

From Coast to Coast and Home Again

Cold and Rainy

I’m tired. In the past month I’ve been on Atlantic and Pacific waters, I spent thirty hours volunteering for the film festival and every other weekend has been filled with house projects and even an emergency shopping trip to Chicago. As I head into summer, there is just so much to do, it has been hard to find the balance between work, travel, projects and the rest and relaxation I actually need. On top of all that I’ve been battling some frustrating stomach issues, which just make eating a chore and totally contributes to my overall tiredness. Finally, I’ve decided that I’m done taking allergy medicine. I’m just going to soldier through this summer without any help, but already, waking up with a nose like a faucet every morning is such a drag.

Whine, whine, whine. This is all very tiring. Here are a couple things I’ve been enjoying recently.

We’ve been working our way through the documentary series Craft in America. It has really made me think about how one medium can really speak to you and another just carries no interest and to wonder how you discover those mediums that most resonate with you. I think trying lots of different craft forms is key.

One of the artists featured is a couple here in southern Wisconsin. They make amazing natural fiber baskets and jewelry. I’ve been pining after their necklaces and leaving the page open for SB to see. Loeber + Look.

I’ve also been reading a lot about bike commuting and I’m sold. Bike commuting looks fantastic! The irony is that I don’t have any commute, so I guess the message is partially lost on me. Check out this short video on bike commuting in Portland. A very nice, low budget documentary.

April 18, 2012

Independent Vacationing

Approaching by land

When I’m planning a vacation, I spend the most time worrying about where we will stay. It has to be convenient, interesting, clean, safe and most importantly a good deal. For our trip to San Francisco last week, I also wanted to be nearby my sister, who lives in a real neighborhood, with very few hotel options. I finally found the right fit through an Air BnB rental.

This was my first time using Air BnB and I wasn’t sure if the strong social networking aspect of the site really fit with my style, but the room was too nice to pass up. The photo below shows the patio off of our studio apartment, just blocks from my sister and close to lots of restaurants and an amazing bakery. We stayed for a week and really felt at home. It was much like our VRBO rental in Paris. Having a small kitchen and an eating area makes travel so much easier and cheaper, as not all meals need to be eaten out and sometimes all you want is something simple. Hotels can be nice, for that pampered feeling, but vacation rentals feel more private and still offer an escape. Plus, it is fun to pretend you live in this exotic city.

The other big expense for travel is car rental, especially in the US, when renting a car can be the only way to see some of the best sights. Since we were staying in the city for this trip, we didn’t want to have to deal with a rental car all the time, figuring out parking and paying for time when we weren’t using the car. A car sharing program, Zip Car, fit our needs and it turned out that we could pick-up a mini-cooper, just a block from our studio. One of the nice things about the car sharing is that all gas is included in the rental price and the car is available hourly or daily. When we were done with the car for the day, we just returned it to its own parking spot, no need to worry about overnight parking rules in the city.

I’m looking forward to using both these services again, as they really made it easy to build just the vacation we wanted, without the constraints of the more traditional hotel and car rentals.

Studio Patio
January 22, 2012

Biodynamic Weekend

Hanging Bicycle

I spent last weekend in San Francisco, visiting my sister, eating good food, drinking great wine and enjoying a little milder weather, before spending the week working in San Jose. One of the things I love about San Francisco is the enthusiasm and dedication to micro-trends from design to food.

Everyday I was in SF, I saw people waiting in line for bread. The bread line went around the block and started forming hours before the bakery opened. Now, these were not people desperate for a little nourishment, this was a line of trendy youngsters waiting outside the french bakery, Tartine. How could bread be worth it? I didn’t brave the line, so I can’t say, though this video is persuasive:

Besides bread I learned a new food concept, biodynamic. As best I understand, it is half the science of extreme sustainability and half a kind of earth religion. Reading the website, it actually started in the 1920s but seems to be gaining popularity recently. I’m sure I’ll be hearing and learning more about it, as their national conference this year is here in Madison. Whatever it may be, it sure produced some wonderful California wines.

Finally, I visited the garden center, Flora Grubb, whose photos had inspired me to start a new succulent arrangement and where I captured the planted bicycle pictured above. The store was every bit as inspiring as the photos had me believe. It made me long to live in a climate where I could grow giant cactus, palms and waxy leafed beauties.

I couldn’t have asked for a better mini-vacation, or as some call it, weekend. Thank you to my lovely hostess.

January 3, 2011



I had four good days in Paris. Here were my favorite Parisian moments:

– Black: When we boarded the metro in Paris, every single person on our crowded train wore black. It was like a parody of Paris fashion. With the exception of a couple white scarves and a gray coat here and there, everyone was clad in black from head to toe. After the initial shock, I noticed many clothing stores, racks filled with black and only black. In Amsterdam women wore tweedy skirts, tights and boots. In Paris, women work skinny black slacks and point black boots, all sleek and monotone.

– Art Nouveau:In addition to the fabulous No. 29 Avenue Rapp building, the Art Nouveau wing of the Musee d’Orsay, filled with nouveau furniture, made me itch to get back to furniture making. The furniture had a whimsy and simplicity of form that I would like to try to capture.

– Language: In our little neighborhood of Paris, hardly any shop keepers spoke English at all. I visited an Italian deli for take-out. The proprietor started with French, I asked for English, he came back with Italian, I settled for Spanish. It was tricky, but I ended up with a fantastic vegetarian lasagna, marinated mushrooms and a mozzarella tomato salad. Yum!

– Eiffel Tower: It is such an icon of Paris and yet for all the photos I’ve seen of it, I still found it compelling. I loved the finer details of the metal work and the great, side slanting elevators.

– Cousins: SB’s cousin lives in Paris with her husband and three children. They invited us over for a driving tour of the city and a home-cooked meal. It was so much fun to see their home and be taught some lessons in cultural differences between Americans and French. For instance, Emeric (14), told me that while I may think it is polite to keep my hands in my lap when at the table, in France, it is most polite to keep your hands in plain view, with your forearms resting on the edge of the table. Arnaud, the husband, gave me a tour of some “uncooked” cheeses of Normandy. William (10), presented SB and I with bird drawings. See below.

William's Owl
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