Sunday, October 25, 2009

A House for Life

This is a blog about leaving one kind of life for another, with some helpful websites and books and stuff thrown in for those who are thinking dreaming along the same lines.

I try to keep my posts on point, because as much as I’d like to laugh with you about the boardwalk pet parade in Rehoboth this weekend,




or get your opinion on these shoes I recently bought,








there’s really nothing worse than a blogger who lures you in with a creative proposition, only to intrude on you later with football fancrazy opinions or "I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long!" fauxpologies.

I admit, I did take that granita detour, but at least I tried to pass it off as something Shore Dive Life-ish.

The hard part about sticking with my theme isn’t that there’s not enough to say—it’s that almost everything we do is somehow linked to creating our next life (and by next life I don’t mean the next life, for any new readers just joining— although I suppose my wine consumption and tendency to run with scissors are probably pushing me in that general direction…).

This weekend we’re staying at our rental house in Rehoboth Beach. On the face of it, this has nothing to do with a Shore Dive Kinda Life. Except that we are trying to sell this house to finance what comes next. And we just reduced the price again – to $990K. Crazy price for a house, I know, and that's $250,000 less than where we started more than two years ago. At this point, we might have enough for a Starbucks after we pay back the bank.

So, I’m learning about power washers and leaf blowers, rose bush pruning and house painting (and not the easy inside kind). Yesterday, our neighbor weighed in with a few ideas. What he actually said was, “I can say this because I’m gay, but basically you need to gay it up a little.” We said, “We’ve been trying to gay it up!”

He recommended a carpenter in town. The carpenter’s name is John. John stopped by today to talk to Rick. (That’s one of the things I adore about Rehoboth – you never actually make an appointment with the plumber, the carpet cleaner, the pool guy. They just come by. Even on a Sunday.)

So Rick (husband) tells John (carpenter) that our neighbor suggested some spruced-up framing for the big plate glass windows out front. The neighbor says that would really help the windows look less cheap and cause the house to “pop.”

John is a 50-ish guy with a torn t-shirt and disheveled hair. Rick is a 50-ish guy with a scruffy beard and disheveled hair. (He’s a hard sleeper on the weekend.) They stand side by side on the tiny front yard, look at the windows, scratch their disheveled heads and say, “Uh, I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

This place is never going to sell.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Picking a Winner

Is an itinerant art show life in the cards for us?

Before we can earn a buck selling photographs, we need to figure out what, exactly, we’re selling. Rick has ramped up his underwater photos in the last couple of years and he has some jaw droppers, but do people put fish on their walls?

How about iconic images from Egypt? Caribbean sunsets? Flamingos? Me sleeping on the couch?

According to the two bibles of the industry, the The Art Festival Handbookand the Art Festival Guide, it’s not enough to pick your favs; you need a theme, a specialty. You can do Tuscany, or you can do birds. Flowers, or cute kids. Not both. No mixing and matching. And don’t even think about trying to sell your snow-capped mountain shots in Florida, or your sailboat photos in Oklahoma – it doesn’t work that way. (I find that last bit a little hard to believe, but then again, I’ve never been to an art show in Oklahoma. For all I know, oil rig scenes are all the rage.)

So we decided not to decide, and instead picked a couple of promising photos and had them blown up on canvas. If we can’t pick a theme, maybe a theme will pick us.

Those first two were underwhelming, so we started over. I picked my favorite – a wildly colorful assortment of spice sacks Rick spotted in the Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo. It’s the kind of photo that makes you do a little happy dance just to look at it – or get started cooking some aromatic Middle Eastern recipe.

The spice sack photo showed up on Friday, and I am happy to report that I am apparently an art-picking genius: it’s spectacular! On the canvas, the edges of the sacks melt into the background and the softened colors seem painted in oils. It looks good on every wall, in every light. We have a winner!

But wait - does that mean we have to do our art shows in Egypt?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Expat Interviews: In Brugge

Driving an RV through Rocky Mountain National Park would be child's play compared to, say, trying to learn Flemish. So cruising around the not-so-historical streets of my neighborhood today, I was curious why images from the movie In Bruges kept popping into my head.

But why wouldn’t they? Look at this:










And this:




There’s something about a chill in the air that always gets me thinking about European cities, holiday shopping on cobblestone streets, Sacher torte and cottage pie.

So I put the Art Show Epiphany on hold for a bit and went off in search of Colin Farrell.

I mean, Brugge! Yes, Brugge.

On ExpatInterviews.com, I found Bradley Boatman. He isn’t in Brugge, but he’s close – just down the road in Hasselt. Everything is just down the road in Europe.

Brugge to Amsterdam: 2 3/4 hours
Paris: 2 hours 59 minutes
Bonn: 3 hours
London: 3 hours 50 minutes

And that's by car! (Except for that bit under the English Channel)

Here’s one of my favorite questions from Bradley’s interview:

What do you think about the Belgians?

I tend to take a universal approach to my fellow humankind; if you're warm, accessible, friendly then usually they mirror the same sentiments back to you. Perhaps Belgians are only slightly more reserved at first. Belgians are trustworthy and extremely dependable people. At least that's been my experience in Flanders.

Trustworthy and dependable. I bet they’d make great neighbors. (Oh, and you know who else is Belgian? That maitre d’ on Hell’s Kitchen. He seems so nice. Even though the Mean Chef insists on calling him French.)

So, read Bradley’s interview if you’re hankering to know a bit more about an expat’s life in Belgium. Or leave a comment here if you have personal experience – even better! And maybe bookmark Expat Interviews, for those days when you’re craving a bit of a wander.


Brugge pictures from Wikimedia Commons, copyright markdhammond (top) and Wolfgang Staudt from Saarbruecken, Germany (bottom)

Pictures Are In!

Welcome to the Hostel Chef, who’s now following A Shore Dive Kinda Life! We hope you like it here, Chef. Speaking of which, if you like what you've been reading here but haven’t subscribed yet, why not put a ring on it? Just type your email address into the "Want this Blog by Email?" box. Or just call me and I'll read it to you. 'Course, then you'd miss all the pretty pictures.

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If we pursue the Art Show Epiphany, we’ll need something to sell, something awesome. Evocative, familiar. But unique. Inspired. Generously proportioned, but not outrageous. Something pretty. Something in focus. Something that goes with a living room couch.

So Rick picked a few of his best photos and had them printed up on canvas. They arrived in record time. I resisted tearing them open; it was his work, not mine, and though the day will come when all this is mundane, this first shipment was Christmas morning, and these presents were his.

I knew he was excited when he didn’t go upstairs to change out of his work suit before opening the packages. He slipped the first, a classic Waikiki sunset framed by a palm frond, out of the cardboard, and held it up.

We beheld. We scrutinized. “Hmmm,” we said in unison.

Reluctant to jump to judgment, he moved on to the second package and pulled out the moody Amman cityscape – the one he uses for his business cards, it’s so perfect. This, surely, would floor us.

“Ummm,” we said.

They were…fine. They were nice photos on large canvases. And neither of us would buy either one at an art show.

I don’t know if it’s the size, the canvas, the subjects. (This, obviously, is why I’m not the artist. I can tell you it doesn’t quite work, but can’t quite articulate why.)

We’re still moving them around the house, trying to figure out where they work better. The tropical sunset may work great on the yellow wall of the sunroom in our beach house >>>

But the tent we’d be using in an art show is likely to be white. So do we pick photos and framing that work on white? Seems obvious, I guess, but worth considering.

In the meantime, I decided to take a stab at picking a couple of shots myself. Here’s my favorite >>>
Photo of spices on display in front of a shop within the Khan el-Khalili marketplace in central Cairo, Egypt– it should arrive any day now. Don't you think that'd look incredible on a kitchen wall?


Well, with all this new art hanging around the house, I guess one thing IS easy to predict:

A lot of people are going to be getting Rick’s pix for Christmas this year.