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Cooking Class Direct from an Italian Farm

Italy is on my mind this month as I prepare for my trip to Florence. So I was happy when an episode from Ashley and Jason Bartner’s cooking classes from Italy arrived in my inbox. They’re another ex-pat couple with an enviable life (catching a theme?) who I’ve been following since writing about them in 2010 shortly after they started La Tavola Marche. They’re charming and driven. The couple moved from Brooklyn to the countryside of Marche, Italy to run an agriturismo farm/inn, where Jason, a chef, teaches guests how to shop, forage and cook Italian, which he says means “cooking with no ego,” Italian cooking is about letting very few, fresh ingredients shine. Salute to that!

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A Day at the Virginia Museum

IMG_3103We spend a lot of time at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Partly that’s because it’s about four blocks from our house and full of color and wonder for the kids. Plus a pretty beautiful little cafe. We have definitely gotten scolded a few times for sitting on ledges or … well … touching. I know. I know. Sorry, Mr. Security Guard. But I have to think at least the kids are inspired enough to want to touch, right?

Our visits are usually pretty short, which suits our attention spans, and the security guards, just fine. I always think of my friend Catherine who’s theory is that it’s best for everyone to keep kids museum visits short then hand them an ice cream. I love that. Get them to the museum but make it rewarding. The other day we visited to check out the new Posing Beauty exhibit but our favorite right now is this great exhibit called Studio Visit where they’ve mocked up artist Ryan McGuinness’ screen-printing studio. You can watch a video of him working, hear the studio sounds, see the materials he uses and take home a free poster. It’s open through Oct. 19, check it out.

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IMG_2898P.S. Great photo of kids at a museum by Laurie Victor Kay.

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Life on the Road: One Family’s Permanent Vacation Through South America

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Selling all your worldly belongings and traveling the world for a year or two, exposing kids to exotic cultures firsthand always seems like a completely romantic idea to me. Why can’t I do something that brave – and ultimately rewarding? Why am I so damn conventional?

I’m always trying to incorporate travel and new experiences into my life and work and not just in the two-week, American sense of vacation, but in a lifestyle of striving for inspiration and knowledge through experience. Travel writing has been my means to that end, in the meantime.

So when I learned of Adam and Emily Harteau traveling with their toddler, making art and selling artisan goods they discover along the way, I was naturally sucked in. They left California in 2012 and have traveled all the way down to the tip of South America and just had a second baby in Brazil, chronicling it along the way on their blog, Our Open Road. Amazing. I love that they’ve figured out a way to make a living while they travel. (Emily is apparently also working on a cookbook of her road-tested healthy meals.) And they also recently partnered with Urban Outfitters. This week they’re holding  one of their flash sales, what they call 24-Hour Bazaar, filled with goods from Peru. Don’t you think that’s brilliant?

Here are some photos from their travels, some of Adam’s art and a handful of items from their current sale. I’m inspired! Dreaming of a road trip with our family one day…

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Some of Adam Harteau’s art

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A selection of things the Harteau’s are selling through Friday on their latest 24-Hour Bazaar…. (I want one of those alpaca blankets!)

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Crunch Dynasty Launch Party (with Chinese Tea Eggs!)

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You might remember, I’ve been helping my friends John and Anya launch a new “crunchy spiced topping” called Crunch Dynasty. It’s been such a fun project because there’s so much heart in it. Anya’s Chinese mom created the recipe and it’s been a staple on her table, adding spice and crunch to nearly everything she’s made over the years. After constantly being asked by friends for samples of “that crunchy spicy stuff,” Anya and her husband, John, decided to bring Crunch to the world. How cool is that? I love their vision and ambition.

Last month they hosted a launch party for some friends, family, a few Richmond chefs and writers. The idea was to showcase the East-West applications of Crunch and they did an amazing job – everything from oysters to Chinese noodles to grilled lollipop lamb chops came alive with Crunch. The  invites and Chinese-newspaper table settings, set the tone for what was definitely a “mouth party.”  My absolute favorite thing was the Marinated Chinese Tea Eggs. I think I may have had at least a dozen.

My photos don’t do it justice, but the party was featured on Broad Appetit, a great Richmond-based food blog, and in  R.Home magazine with beautiful photos by Fred Turko and recipes. I will definitely be making those tea eggs!

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5 Facts About Global Tourism in 2014

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4 most-visited countries in the world: France, U.S., China and Spain
9.5 percent  – tourism’s piece of the global economy
70 percent –  of the world’s people need to go to an embassy to visit another country
69 – number of airports currently being built in China so that soon no Chinese person will live more than 90 minutes from an airport
100 million – number of Chinese tourists in the world (predicted to double by the year 2020)

Pretty amazing to think about the power the Chinese will be wielding, right?

Via a New York Times interview with David Scowsill, president and chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council. Photo by Laurent Scheinfelt.

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Moments From Our Month

Happy 4th of July! We’re growing up quickly over here. Life is busy busy busy with these two kiddies. Now that JJ is moving and communicating (though not really talking yet) we feel more like a family and less like a couple with babies in tow. That’s been the biggest transition for us. We do more kid-focused things and less hanging out at coffee shops, though we usually make it out to Richmond festivals. Marguerite continues to amaze us with her patience and love for her brother, and JJ is a little comedian and budding musician (he can even grove to the easy listening piping in to the grocery store!). Here are some favorite moments from our month around town.

20140704-112657-41217545.jpgMarguerite wanted to make an American flag to cheer on Team USA in the World Cup.

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20140704-111032-40232684.jpgJJ with one of the new murals in our neighborhood from the Richmond Mural Project.

20140704-111523-40523449.jpgWe love homemade pizza night. This time we cheated and used Trader Joe’s pre-made dough. I snuck some broccoli on and Marguerite added the smiley face.

20140704-111033-40233017.jpgJJ and I at the Build a Better Block festival in Richmond’s Church Hill neighborhood. (Love my new Warby Parker prescription sunglasses!)

20140704-111033-40233316.jpgScott and I snuck out for a date that started with amazing cocktails at Belmont Food Shop, complete with homemade tonic. Craft cocktails are  hitting Richmond hard right now.

20140704-111033-40233649.jpgAfterwards we went to the top of city hall and caught this sunset view of Richmond with the beautiful, gothic executive office building in the foreground and Thomas Jefferson-designed Virginia state capitol in white to the right.

20140704-111523-40523616.jpgThis amazing mural by the Poland-based Etam Cru is two blocks from my office and recently landed on a Buzzfeed list of the Best Street Art in the World.

20140704-113344-41624594.jpgWe finally gave in and got a double stroller and I’m so glad. Now we can get some exercise. Here’s Scott on an early morning walk around Byrd Park.

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Street Canopies of Spain

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Every time summer rolls around and the sun is blazing down here in Richmond, I think of these brilliant and beautiful street canopies we spotted in Madrid years ago. The ones here are from Madrid, but it they use them all over Spain. (Here’s one in Toledo and another in Seville). The Spanish are so civilized. I wish they’d get introduced stateside. In the meantime, I’m considering stringing one up in my backyard and was surprised to find them at Ikea.

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P.S. Here’s a pretty cool art installation that hung overhead in Portugal.

 

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Summer Travel Wardrobe Courtesy of Tulum’s Hottest Couple

Consider your summer travel wardrobe solved. The stylish couple behind Tulum, Mexico’s hot Coqui Coqui hotel, Francesca Bonato and Nicholas Malleville, designed a capsule collection for Club Monaco that’s beachy and just boho enough to work as a summer wardrobe no matter where you’re traveling. He’s a model and she’s a designer, both gorgeous, and responsible for helping to establish Tulum as a hotspot for the fashion crowd with their low-key, 7-room hotel. Now they have four hotels across the Yucatan and a line of perfumes. Here are my five favorites from the Coqui Coqui for Club Monaco beach collection with photos shot on location by Brian W. Ferry.

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Love her great Candelaria Earrings and Virginia Sandals (and I’m totally going to try that braid).

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Gorgeous old stone at Coqui Coqui in Tulum.

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The beautiful embroidered maxi dress.

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This great  crochet dress that works as a cover up or, with a slip underneath, can be dressed up for dinner out. (Versatile items are a must for packing. Why I love these sandals.)

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The Nickole Poncho top gives the pareo skirt just enough edge. So cute. Okay, now I’m dying to go to Tulum.

P.S. I also love the collection’s open work tank and this one, too.

What are you packing this summer?

 

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Packing List: Dry Shampoo to Surreptitiously Skip the Shower

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It takes me way too long to do my hair, which means I try to do it as little as possible. But propriety being what it is, I can only stretch it so long. Recently, I discovered a secret weapon from quirky Austrian haircare line Evo. Its Water Killer dry shampoo absorbs oil and gives texture and hold, but leaves hair feeling light. Plus it smells good – bonus! – so acts like Febreze for your hair, too. And it comes in a 2.5 oz travel size which makes it a genius thing to carry on the plane for a little primp after a long flight. I’m planning to bring on my upcoming trip to Italy. More on that soon…

P.S. I’m also in love with Evo’s Mister Fantastic texture spray that I got turned on to at my favorite Brooklyn salon.

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This Must be the Place: Uxua in Bahia, Brazil

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Skip the World Cup and head to this amazing, understated hotel in Brazil. Uxua Casa Hotel is the first, and part of the inspiration, for my This Must be the Place series highlighting small, special design hotels that reflect the spirit of the place. Often they’re owned by visionaries who fell in love with a corner of the world and had to share it, like this one.  Here’s the story…

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One visit to the remote fishing village of Trancoso on Brazil’s Bahian coast and Wilbert Das longed to return. A friend told him it would feel like home, and surprisingly, for a Dutch fashion designer who once headed Diesel’s creative team, it did. He was taken with the simple, unspoiled architecture, immaculate beaches and rich culture, and soon Das was looking for a vacation home. He settled on 10, encircling the town’s historic square (called Quadrado) and scattered throughout a garden filled with fruit trees. Das worked with local artisans and nearby Pataxó Indians to restore, furnish and decorate the loose collection of homes using traditional building methods and recycled materials. The resulting “casas,” completed in 2009, reflect the colonial, indigenous Indian and Afro-Bahian histories of the area with their rustic-modern sensibility.

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In an attempt to blend in, the casas have no signage but enjoy access to hotel amenities such as a luxury spa; a lagoon-like pool made with 40,000 pieces of a local quartz thought to have healing powers; a beachfront lounge made from old fishing boats; and a restaurant serving regional Bahian fare with seafood right from the ocean and cocktails crafted from fruit grown in the garden.

uxua_treeUxua (pronounced “Ush-wah”) helps to sustain local culture by sponsoring Trancoso’s academy of Capoeira, an Afro-Bahian martial arts dance—which guests can experience—and working with local fisherman to preserve the rainforest and marine life. Ever the creative director, Das has lured an impressive list of international artists and designers to Uxua (the Pataxó word loosely meaning marvelous)—including Mario Testino, who photographed the resort for Vogue—and asked them to capture their impressions on photographic “canvases,” which can be seen on the Uxua web site. Rates run from $470 to $1,670 per night. Isn’t it amazing?

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