Home is where the He(ART) is

    Chambers Austelle commissioned work

As you may have noticed in some of my previous posts, art is something I choose to incorporate in all aspects of my life. From mix and match fashion to travel and, especially, in my home. Today, I’m giving you a peek into my own collection and sharing some of my favorite pieces that I have collected over the years.

    Peter Kiel 2009

I’m drawn to art that enlivens a room, adds character and ultimately makes a space feeling inviting. When you walk into a home and see how it’s decorated, it speaks volumes to the homeowner’s personality. Art is one of my favorite ways to express myself and create a welcoming yet unique space for my family. Plus, a lot of pieces act as great conversation starters when friends come over!

    Keith Haring Exhibition Poster '84

Decorating your house with art isn’t something that has to happen all at once - it's a labor of love. Collect pieces at your own pace and buy only what you truly love as it's always personal. Art doesn’t have to be expensive either! This is where you can have fun with it, and even frame some of your kids' artwork that you can all appreciate as they grow older.

    Girls' Artwork

Where do you find art? Well, that’s the beauty of it - anything can truly be art if it makes you feel something. I love looking at antique stores, flea markets, art galleries, artists' studios and even online sites. I'll be sharing some favorite resources in a separate blog post so stay tuned!

    Peter Kiel '65

Do you have any go-to places to browse art? Or a favorite artist you’d like to share?


Strawberry Picking & Farm Adventures

This past week on a Friday afternoon the girls and I adventured to one of our favorite summer spots, Tougas Family Farm. We spent the day enjoying the outdoors, picking strawberries, playing with the farm animals and of course, eating delicious treats from the farm stand! The weather was slightly chilly but we barely noticed once we started diving into all there was to do.

Tasting the fresh strawberries was easily one of the best parts. A true summer must! Even my daughter said “Mama, these smell so fresh and are much better than the ‘grocery store’ ones!”  We also indulged on delicious strawberry shortcake and smoothies. The shortcake bowl was wiped clean in no time!

We couldn’t leave without feeding the friendly animals. The farm sells feed for $1 and my girls had a blast playing with the goats. Aside from the slides at the playground, this was definitely the highlight of their day.

It was a simple day that held a lot of genuine fun. I didn't even carry my 'real' camera so I could enjoy every minute of the farm adventure with the girls.


Weekend Getaway to Paris

I have wanted to explore Paris solo ever since I was there with my family in 2013. We had a wonderful time, even pushing our two kiddos around in strollers, but it left me wanting more. Solo explorations are truly unique. They give you the opportunity to focus on yourself and discover things in a new light. My weekend trip to Paris this May was exactly that!

Originally, my plan was to spend my three-day getaway by myself. I had hopes to explore the city, enjoy quintessential Parisian cafes and document the city through my lens. After a couple days of solo travel, however, I realized that I wouldn’t mind some companionship. Thanks to my amazing cousins A and S, we were able to pull off a mini reunion while I was there. This gave me the best of both worlds! I spent half of my trip exploring the city and enjoying photographing on my own and the other half just hanging out with my cousins -- One was visiting from Germany and the other from India en route to Germany.

Cobblestone Streets of Montmartre

Solo wanderings in Montmartre

My personal agenda involved visiting Paris flea markets (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen), walking around Montmartre, taking in all the chic and unique of La Marais and visiting a residential neighborhood to get a feel of local life. 

My husband and I have never been a fan of guided tours. We’ve always enjoyed touring cities at our own pace and in our own, unstructured way. This time, since I was alone and had to make the most of my short stay, I decided to give guided tours a shot!

I started off with a tour of Montmartre on Friday evening. Old Montmartre is where the likes of Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso had their studios. It was the hot spot for jazz in Paris, and it was where the iconic (and my favorite) street photographer Henry-Cartier Bresson walked the cobblestoned streets with his Leica rangefinder. It was a no brainer to walk and experience Montmartre. It was also fun to learn the history of Moulin Rouge, Plaster of Paris and see some of the more popular tourist destinations like The Basilica, La Maison Rose etc.

    Meeting place for early 20th-century artists

La Maison Rose

    The Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Flea markets and antiques galore

Saint-Ouen Flea Market is only open on the weekends, so I headed there first thing Saturday morning! I booked the tour beforehand and enjoyed our tour guide, Sean, and the small group of four Canadians plus a couple from Minneapolis I was paired with.

Saint-Ouen Flea Market consists of several different markets which are known for their antique art and collectibles. Some of the ones we visited are Vernaison, Dauphine, Paul Bert and Serpette to name a few. I don’t remember the exact scene in the movie Midnight in Paris but I was told one of the scenes was shot at the Paul Bert market. I’ll have to watch the movie again!

After the tour, I decided to spend more time at the Vernaison market - specifically at a vintage poster shop. I was so excited and overwhelmed, I don’t even remember the name of the shop! My online research is telling me it might have been Poster Paul. They had a massive collection of original poster art (remember my collectible poster obsession from last summer?) and lithographs by some of the most famous artists - Alexander Calder, Picasso, Matisse, Miro etc. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I spent an hour browsing and walked away with an original Bernard Villemot Bally poster (You’ll get to see it in a future blog post once it’s framed and ready for display!)

If you ever happen to be in the area, leave some room in your schedule to listen to live Gypsy jazz at La Chope des Puces.

Local gems and authentic neighborhoods

A trip to Paris isn’t complete until one visits a residential neighborhood. When I visited Cite Florale, I was greeted by a parisian cat and kids playing hide-and-seek and kickball. A true local experience. It was a quiet and picturesque neighborhood. 

Cite Florale

It was now time to head back to La Marais, where I was staying, to relax with a cappuccino and a sweet treat! (Whenever I need an early evening pick-me-up while on vacation, I can never decide if it’s time for coffee or wine!) Once I felt revived, I explored fun stores and chic boutiques of bustling La Marais before it was time to get ready to meet my cousins for dinner!

Terres De Cafe

La Marais

I was glad that I was able to squeeze in pretty much everything I wanted to do in a day and a half! I saved the museums (and more) for when I get another chance to visit with my husband and girls. There is SO much to do in Paris, even a month may not be enough!

It was now time to put away my camera and enjoy Saturday night and Sunday just eating, drinking and relaxing by Seine with my cousins.


Our Family Summer Bucket List

We’ve had a few pretty consistent warm days so I hope it’s safe to assume summer is right around the corner! There are two more weeks of school remaining and then it’s mommy camp for a few weeks! After a year of transactional morning and evening interactions with the girls - “finish your breakfast”, “hurry up, we are getting late”, “10 more minutes and it’s bath time” - I’m so done with having a set schedule. I don’t want to be totally loosey goosey, as I’m obviously not taking the entire summer off, but I want to play it by ear and enjoy some downtime with the girls. I may change my mind by mid-July (ha!) but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

We have no grand plans this summer, but if we can manage to keep ourselves safe and sane, I’ll consider it a job well done. : )

Last summer, I had my *then* almost 6-year-old make a list of 10 things she wanted to do in the summer. We were still working on spellings at the time but she, without any guidance, came up with the list below. I managed to find this cell phone picture of her summer bucket list.

So sweet and simple! In case you are wondering “nachere” is “nature”, and no, we don’t have a pool. She is referring to a plastic kiddie pool that we used a total of one time last summer when baby cousin was visiting. We managed to cross almost everything off the list and were feeling satisfied with our adventures by the end of the summer.

This year again, I asked the girls to come up with a list of things they want to do this summer. Instead of having them write it, I sat with them and typed it myself. This quickly became a family affair and we created a bucket list together. I’m hoping this list will help us appreciate the weather and embrace simplicity! 

1. Go camping
3. Fly a kite
4. Spend time at the park
5. Go Sailing
6. Grill outside
7. Go strawberry and peach picking
8. Shop at a farmers market
10. Grow Flowers

Last year’s morning glory planted by the girls.

11. Enjoy long walks in Boston
12. Have a beach day (or two)
13. Go to Canobie Lake Park
14. Go on a mini hike
15. Eat ice cream from an ice cream truck
16. Play hopscotch/backyard games
17. Go family golfing/driving range
18. Make a lemonade stand
19. Go on a mini road trip
20. Go canoeing

The list could go on and on but we’re capping it at 20. These activities will act as a general guideline to fill our days mindfully. Do you believe in seasonal bucket lists? What are some of your favorite summer activities?