Jul 8 2013

Have you? Did you? Nope. Not yet.

Have you been biked across the Golden Gate Bridge?

Are you going to do the Exploratorium?

Did you eat at that restaurant I sent?

My answer is typically: Not yet. But maybe.

We get a pretty non-stop list of suggestions and must-dos and gotta-sees leading up to trips. I’m always happy to take suggestions and hear ideas, especially on traveling with a tot. And, I do heaps of research and make a Google map and doc before we go of stuff (places, tastes, things, kid friendly and not) nearby and far by (these are great to share with friends traveling, too). For San Francisco, I read up on everything and anything Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day shared, especially this post on urban hikes and this guest post for Alphamom. I googled and queried and dug around Yelp.

Over the course of a month, we’ll likely do some of the things shared and things I found. Maybe most. Maybe.


But today, so far, the place we’ve been the most is the Cow Hollow Playground.


It’s a small neighborhood playground tucked into a half-street a few blocks from our house in the Marina. It’s nothing fancy. Sun bleached communal toys, some much loved equipment. Lots of sand. But it’s exactly what we like to discover when we’re away. The things that make us feel connected to a new place, even if we know it’s (and plan for it to be) fleeting. In Iceland (pre-Lo) it was C is for Cookie. In Paris, it was the toddler playground at the Jardin de Luxembourg (man, I did a crappy job blogging in Paris.) And here, it’s a place like the Cow Hollow Playground.

It’s not all that different, in fact it’s a bit older and rougher, than our playground in Skunk Hollow (and no, we didn’t realize the name of our neighborhood here till we got here). And that’s why it’s both familiar and magical (because, no, we didn’t realize the name of our neighborhood here till we got here).


Part of the challenge of explaining the whats (and whys) when we’re away involves sharing a philosophy that sounds overwrought and high handed and, ugh, pretentious or obnoxious. In fact, if one of you were to talk to me about something similar I just might (no, I would) make fun of you for being too earnest. But with reflection and hindsight on past trips and planning for this and future trips, one does, if one’s looking for it, start to coalesce ideas and approaches. And the neighborhood playground embodies much of our approach. It’s an immersion and a surrounding and an appreciation for being somewhere, not just visiting somewhere.

To do that sometimes means we de-prioritize all the places on the lists and recs and must-sees. It’s not a wholesale rejection, because I am wired to want to do it all. A focus on finding what we can do, honoring our work we both love, and the realities of the limits of CopperTop both limit and free us from accomplishing it all.

It’s trying to find the balance of the native New Yorker whose never been to the Statue of Liberty and the run-ragged tourist who’s been everywhere for the sake of checking it off a list. I want to be neither.

The thrill for us yesterday was discovering the path of least resistance. In San Francisco, that means the least hilly route from the playground home. It’s about as mundane a thrill as you can have. It’s just the thrill we are looking for on trips like this.

There will be moments like the Pride Parade.


There will be trips to someplace exciting worthy of a skipped nap and a crappy night, I know and hope.

But for the most part, the most parts of the trip are simple pleasures. And those have changed, and stayed the same, since I first wrote about it in 2010 (oh, to spend a day reading!). Now, it’s Lo’s first swim class last week (at the wonderful JCC here) and seeing how songs like “Open, Shut Them” sound sung by a different librarian at story time. It’s tasting fresh strawberries and seeing what hills look like to a toddler from flatter lands.

It’s trying a puff pastry from the joint down the street.

Or even just chasing the rainbows on the staircase at the house. Because there aren’t rainbows on our staircase in Oak Park.


It isn’t necessarily anything that would appeal to everyone. But we know we’re creating time and space with travel like this to let the mundane magic happen. It’s why we do what we do.


Jul 3 2013

San Francisco. Now What?

Writing about living someplace new is a tad easier when the new place is farther and further and more foreign. Iceland and rural France have been our homes away from home so far. Navigating language and cultural differences feels real and pressing when they surround you and you’ve got a passport stamp and all that.

This summer, we’re staying in San Francisco. I couldn’t be more excited. I mean, this is my view (or some version of this, fog dependent) every morning.


A domestic adventure like this makes writing about immersion in a new culture a bit different because, heck, my friend came over for dinner last night and it’s a city both Brett & I have visited and love.

That doesn’t make it any less exciting or new. We’re still figuring out how to travel for 5+ weeks with a kid, we’re still figuring out how to support one another’s work with altered schedules and arrangements. And San Francisco? Radder than rad.

There’s plenty of exciting happening here. Heidi of SpitfireGirl is here and I’m excited to finally, finally meet her. I’m lucky to be attending Alt SF in a couple weeks, too. That’s one of the magical things that happened. We knew we were coming here before Heidi and I launched the SpitfireMom series and I knew I’d get in to Alt and it all just kind of worked out.

And, I’m certain I’ll share things here this month that are different here than in Oak Park. Composting is mandatory, there are so.many.hills, and there is most definitely things that are just, well, different.

More, I’m eager to share more of WHAT we do when we’re away (we work and live, not just vacation), WHY we do it (hello life of intention), and HOW we do it (massive planning, a dash of luck, and heaps of faith in one another even when we’re disagreeing).

We figure if we can figure out how to make this possible maybe it’ll help or inspire others to try it out or connect us to others who are doing something similar in whatever way makes sense in their worlds.

More on avoiding a jetlagged toddler, talking with clients about why it’s ok you are going away, how to create and embrace work schedules that allow for family fun, and why tinfoil is a parent’s best friend soon!

May 22 2013

One from the Archives: Marrakech


One evening during our honeymoon, we sat and watched the sun set over the Jamaa el Fna (ساحة جامع الفناء). Jamaa el Fna can translate either to something about congregating or something about death. So, depending on which guide book you read it’s either charming or ominous.

Either way, it’s still the main square in Marrakech with winding alleyways leading to the square from the many twists and turns of the medina. During the day, it’s an orange juice stall-strewn gathering place for locals and tourists and locals trying to get tourists to buy stuff. At night, food stalls stand at attention and games of chance replace leashed monkeys.

It was a sincerely insane sunset that night and we had a perch atop one of the many cafes that line the plaza. So we sat and sipped and talked about the colors of the sky as the call to prayer started in round-like fashion all around us. The calls ended, the sun set, and then, it was dark. I’ve no clue what this man was doing or selling. I wouldn’t have been surprised by any answer.

Mar 8 2013

One from the Archives: Thailand


A winding, winding road leads up Doi Suthep, a mountain just west of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. So winding in fact that as we rode in our little car back in 2008 we passed a motorbike with a woman sporadically puking off the back.

At the top is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a Buddhist complex dating from the 1380s. Some folks complain the chedi lost its charm when it was outfitted in gold. Me? I dig it.

I swear, if you stand still long enough in Thailand you will either have a picture of the “Jazz King” hung on you OR you will be gilded within an inch of your life. it must be in the constitution.

Feb 27 2013

One from the Archives: Paris

IMG_3337We spent five weeks in France last summer. FIVE weeks. And I didn’t blog nearly as much as I did in Iceland. Not nearly as much as I intended.
Let’s blame a toddler, and work, and me needing to tend to both. I am immensely proud of my little family for the way we rocked this trip. And yet I have tiny pangs of regret about not doing what I said I would do. The daily post. The better documentation. So now, six months later, I’m finally organizing the ephemera. I’ve decided to not be paralyzed by regret. Not this time. Not this trip.

Because the beauty of Paris is that if you allow it, there is no time for regrets. Instead, there were perfect moments like this one.

Our last week abroad we rented an apartment in the 7th. After we dumped the bags and exhaled, we tossed Loie in a stroller and walked. And this was a view as we turned a corner.

And that, my friends, was perfect.

Feb 20 2013

Sweet Mondays 2/19/13

We were in California this week.

So I wasn’t baking for Design Cloud friends. But I was with my delightful family.

My sister hosted a dinner on Sunday night. We got some insanely lovely pies from Phillips Farm in Lodi. Think part wine tasting, part petting zoo, all with breakfast burritos. You can’t really lose.

IMG_2962And while I didn’t bake, I did make some whipped cream to go with the pies. This has been my go to recipe for quite some time.

Three ingredients. If you can, stick the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes before hand. I don’t know why the hell it helps, but it does.

I’m always stumped by how you can stop whipping “right” before stiff peaks form but so far, no one has called me out for a major whipped cream failure. Sub-par whipped cream beats no whipped cream.



May 26 2012

One from the Archive: Wedding Window

In the August before our wedding in 2009, I was almost surprised by a trip to Amsterdam. I say almost in that Brett had the idea and the desire but knew to pull a bride mid-planning and weeks away from the event away from all the, well, things could be dangerous. (note: not all brides need to plan or behave this way. I, in ways I am proud of and less proud of, needed to plan). So he instead surprised me with the idea of a trip, which was quite enough for me.

Off we jetted to Amsterdam for a long weekend. The city. Oh, that city.

As we wandered some street in some neighborhood I’d die to live in, we stumbled across this small collection in a window. I have no idea if it was a wedding-related business. Or a home. Or a message or just twee. But in those almost-married days, it was perfect.

May 3 2012

One from the Archive: Space for Monks

In the summer of 2007, I traveled to Thailand with two friends.

Several recommendations suggested getting out of Bangkok as quickly as possible. Once a small trading post, it’s now a megalopolis with some twelve million residents fighting for the technicolor cabs. Traffic is unlike anything I’ve experienced. Tuk tuks and cabs and bikes and cars and people and wow.

We opted, though, to spend several days on either end of trip in Bangkok.

While there, we took a river taxi ride on the Chao Phraya River. It’s a much mellower way to make your way around the city. And, at 2.5 baht, it’s about 8 cents to cross the river.

It was on a river taxi that I spotted these two Buddhist monks, resplendent in their saffron robes. Because monks avoid contact with women, the boats have a -Space for Monks-.

Apr 20 2012

Getting Our Gîte On

A major component of the Burwell grand life experiment is the ability to live%work abroad. We needed job flexibility (check!). We needed a desire to stamp the crap out of passports (check!). We needed the Magic Jack (check!). We pulled it off, I’d say with some panache, in Reykjavik nary a few weeks after moving into our house in the summer of 2010. I was aggressively confident we’d do it again in 2011. Then I got a little pregnant so last summer was not one for traveling beyond Babies ‘R Us. Have others successfully done it? Sure. I was not a natural at newborning.

Which means, friends, I’m triply jazzed about this summer. Because this summer not only will lil’ Lo get a passport stamp and we’re living abroad but we’ll be doing it with my sister and her family for the month.

This summer we’ll be here:

It’s a gîte! In Normandy! With two separate living areas so we can pretend we are French condo neighbors! For the non-gîters out there, gîtes are self-catering homes available for rent and are often converted barns (like ours) or old something-or-others that have been rehabbed.

It’s nearish a smallish village called Rânes, majorly west and a dash south of Paris. I don’t think it’s particularly close to anything, really, but that might just be the point. The family that is renting it recommended a car and then informed us they’re installing a trampoline. So we’re going to be just fine.

Now, before you plan to rob me (schmuck) you should know that I am a step ahead. We’ve rented our home to a lovely neighborhood family who will be busy renovating their place. We’ve thought about swapping and may get there someday. This felt like a fabulous, mortgage-paying first step.

In preparation, I asked for Rosetta Stone French for my birthday. My plan? A lesson every day or two and voilà, re-fluency. I spoke lovely French in high school and wrote essays in French on novels in French. Now, a few glasses of wine and I might try to start singing this song in the translation a friend and I developed at 16. “Allez, vient, je parle à toi…”

So far? Well, so far, in four months I’ve finished one lesson. I can re-comfortably address issues related to an individual or group drinking, eating, swimming or cooking. Since those are the four activities I imagine we will do the most this summer, I’m all set.