“You’re gonna love Key West!”

“You’re gonna love Key West!” is what everyone told us. Naturally slightly cynical by nature, we thought that perhaps we wouldn’t love Key West, if everyone kept telling us how much we would…

IMG_0082We arrived on Friday night, and were meeting a friend of a friend of a friend – it’s always a huge benefit to have someone local to show you around, especially in such a tourist-trap as Key West. We met at the Hogfish Bar and Grille, a locals’ place on a working waterfront of Stock Island, and a few minutes later had met the owner of the place, had heaps of delicious food in front of us, had been offered a place to stay in Key West, a place to stay in Colorado, and were discussing the embargo on Cuba… it was a first-class first impression!

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Key West is the (almost) furthest south point of the 48 states. (I say almost because there is a private island that is further South, but there wasn’t any hope of us being able to visit there… at least not on this trip). It is actually closer to Havana than Miami, with many monuments proclaiming “90 miles to Cuba”. A beautiful drive down from the mainland connects the Florida Keys, by what used to be railroad, and is now an impressive engineering feat of hundreds of miles of bridges and highways stitching together dozens of islands as you drive further and further out into the ocean.

The sea is shallow, warm and boasts beautiful sealife. The island itself is nothing particularly remarkable except its southerly claim – it has everything you would expect from a tourist spot: bars, a couple of beaches, boutiques and botanical gardens.

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Funnily enough, the monument to the furthest south point in the 48 states is not even on the furthest south point of the island… but still the tourists line up for their photo, fresh off the cruise ships from the Bahamas or the East Coast of the USA. And then of course you have the proud ‘southernmost house’, the ‘southernmost bar’, ‘southernmost grocery store’… and the more unusual ‘southernmost hockey club’…

_MG_4821In some ways we came at the wrong time of year. Louise played two gigs at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon – highly recommended place with amazing food, great fun staff, and great music! [website] But even for a long weekend celebrating Memorial Day, they were quiet evenings. The “snow birds”, as they are referred to, spend their winters in Florida, and when it gets hot they make their way up North. Many of the bar staff that we met were also preparing to leave for the off-season, and told us that their busiest season is October to February. But still, the average number of daily tourists is 25,000… as much as the population of Key West itself!

So we were glad to be in town on a quieter week, and thankfully, we didn’t have to pay the extortionate hotel rates – they are as expensive as rooms in downtown New York City. We stayed at a friend’s boat yard, which allowed us to see the “real” Key West – the people who work on the coast; border patrol, fishermen, boat builders.

Before we left, we had our introduction to the world of the Laundromat. A stark contrast to the tourist world just minutes away, we were joined by Spanish and French speaking immigrants, who were getting pushy over who was next in line to the few machines that actually worked.

IMG_0080And then our farewell lunch was at the place where we had been so wonderfully welcomed – the Hogfish – where we toasted Key West’s working waterfront by ordering the workman’s lunch: Meatloaf, Mash and Gravy.

So again, we are on our way… and the only way from Key West is North!

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Attack of the Bugs

Miami beach

It all started on Miami Beach… an afternoon jog and a sunny walk down one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Our peaceful stroll was rudely interrupted by the discovery of what I at first thought was just a little leaf stuck on my hip. It turned out, I had been bitten by a tick, and it was now firmly attached and enjoying itself!

A little bit freaked out, I went to ask advice from the life guard who was on duty at the beach. He said we had to be careful as we removed it, (his wise advice was: “google it”!) but that we shouldn’t worry too much about it. Relieved, we started chatting about our journey and mentioned that we were heading down to Everglades National Park to camp out. This time, his wise advice was “Watch out for the mosquitos. They’re big, and they hurt!”

Having lived in tropical Philippines, we thought we had plenty of experience with mosquitos, and so we weren’t too worried about the bugs in the park. We headed back to the car, carefully removed the pesky tick, and headed south.

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The road was peaceful and we drove towards a stunning sunset, ready to set up camp for two nights. As we got out of the car at dusk, our peace was shattered as literally thousands of flies, mosquitos, gnats, moths, and goodness knows what else jumped on us! It was like a biblical plague. It was relentless. The noise, the bites; on our faces, legs, arms, feet… So we covered up as much as we could, put on bug spray, and determined to cook our dinner and get to bed, hoping that in the morning it would all be better. We sealed the doors and windows of our Defender, spent 20 minutes killing all the bugs that had snuck in as we got inside, and then settled down for a very sticky, humid night’s sleep!

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I woke up with the itchiest feet I have ever had. The small gap between where our shoes had ended and our trouser legs had begun had provided ample space for some opportunistic mosquitos, and we had literally hundreds of bites in that small gap. I looked like I had some sort of skin condition, there were so many bites.

The morning provided some relief from the swarms, but not much… we were constantly swatting, moving, (occasionally cursing!) and trying to stay one step ahead of our constant companions. But determined to enjoy the beauty of the park, we resolved that we would move to the campsite nearer to the ocean, and try again that night.

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It was worse… as well as the usual suspects, we were also greeted by swarms of even smaller flying bugs, that didn’t seem put off by any amount of bug spray, and were too small to kill even though they were big enough to bite! The best part of the day was when it was very hot, and so we were able to take a walk around the park and did see some beautiful wildlife. But the heat, the bugs and the humidity had taken their toll… we were ready to leave early the next morning.

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We were a little apprehensive about heading even further South… our plan was to make it to the Southernmost point of the 48 states – Key West. We had planned to spend five days there, but if it was going to be more of the same, we knew it would be unbearable!

But thankfully, as we pulled into the parking lot of a waterfront restaurant, we stepped outside and all that we felt was a warm sea breeze and the late afternoon sunshine. Peace at last!

“I like large things, large quantities of things”

After hours on the road, we pulled the Land Rover into the driveway of our “new home” for two days on the Isle of Palms, just outside Charleston, SC. In the golden late afternoon sunshine, Pat, watering her picture perfect plants in her pretty pink front garden, and glowing with a smile from ear to ear, waved us into the driveway and welcomed us to her home. Seconds later we were feeling the warmth of her unabashed laughter, and we knew that hers was going to be a house where we felt very at home.

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Pat’s home is an artist’s paradise. As soon as we walked in, a stunning collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques greeted us. From her vast collection of old cameras, to her art wall with works from across the world, Pat has filled her home with all sorts of beautiful art. But she maintains that she is not an artist herself…

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Well you know, I can’t actually do anything besides raise plants very well! But I’m a very visual creature – I’m a big fan of colour and texture and movement, and I don’t really know when I started to collect paintings… I didn’t study it, I can’t do it! I think just from travelling I just gained an appreciation – I’m a museum maniac; it’s actually my bucket list to be able to go to every worthy museum in the world.

_MG_4428As Pat gave us an impromtu tour of her collection, we were amazed at the way she described each piece. For someone without any formal training in art or art history, her knowledge was deep and her eye was true. She talked about her pieces almost as a mother talking about a child – rejoicing in their uniqueness and beauties, lamenting over their weaknesses, seeing each detail, knowing them inside out. Each painting has a story; how she found it, why she chose it.

There has to be a gut reaction for me. You know I used to work in an art gallery for several years, and it drove me crazy when people there would be looking for things that would just “match” their interior décor.  There were lots of decorators too who would come in and help people choose pieces to match their designs – it drove me crazy! They just had no gut reaction. 

It’s so hard for me to leave a gallery without taking something that I feel a gut response to – hence the quantity probably – I can’t leave without it! I thought I was gonna have to start putting stuff on the ceiling! 

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Wanting to understand more about the way that the masters put their paintings together, Pat started to study on her own – from books and videos, she has developed a fuller understanding that allows her to see so much more.

When I was younger, I could only afford posters from the places that I had been, and those were very special. But I can’t stand to just have posters of things anymore – I can’t tolerate the imitation of it. You never see the texture or the shadows, the contrast, the nuances of what the artists did. So I feel like I’m old enough and should be able to afford decent originals!

And when I’m in front of the original art, I could just stand and look at one painting for hours, and just study it. There’s so much to consider when you’re looking at it, and to appreciate talent. When I spent three days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in preparation for that I got these videos from the library. They were kind of old and farty, but it was different people talking about art and the artists; how they painted, why they painted and what they did, then I was really like oh my gosh, I could see so much more.

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Pat also has hundreds of antique cameras and one day she wants to catalogue and display them properly.  She fell in love with cameras when she was just a young girl. Exploring the attics of her parents’ home in Jersey City, she came across an old Kodak camera and the seed of her future collection was planted. Later, as she travelled, she bought her first Nikomat camera in Japan. Her love of all things visual was placed into the limelight as she started to experiment with photography; buying lenses, learning the technical skills and spending hours developing films. Pat’s collection of cameras and film projectors now numbers into the hundreds, but unfortunately, many of them are still hiding in their boxes and are not yet on display.

It’s a little excessive isn’t it? I like BIG. “I like large things, large quantities of things”, I don’t do much that’s small or tiny…

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Pat is also ‘obsessed’ with her garden. After Hurricane Hugo completely destroyed her home in 1989, it has taken Pat years to rebuild. Her home was absolutely flattened, and the only thing left in her garden was a palm tree. Now the house looks picture perfect; while we were out visiting the sights in Charleston on Saturday, Pat spent her whole day working on the garden. Her inner connection to art, texture and colour also draws her outside of her home into her garden:

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I have the same response to nature. I mean, you see all my plants and everything, I’m kind of an obsessive creature. I have this green thumb… I don’t know where it came from, I mean I grew up in a big city with just dirt in the back yard. It just seems to come out of me!

After hurricane Hugo there was nothing there! Every single thing that’s out I planted and grew and nurtured and talked to. When something dies I’m devastated! Things don’t usually die on me – they wouldn’t dare! I have a visceral reaction to nature as well – I grew up in a big city – I just seem to get a teeny interest in something and then BAM I’m living and breathing it. But to me the yard and the plants and the light and the design, that’s about as artistic as I can get. 

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As much as Pat maintains that she is not an “artist”, it is clear to see that she truly is. She started a framing business several years ago, and has a keen eye for the art of how to frame and mount a work of art, bringing out all the colours, textures and shadows. A piece of art can be destroyed with bad framing, but when someone understands the principles of framing and lighting, they can actually enhance the way that the painting is received.

This “non-artist” is one of the most artistic souls we have met so far on our journey. Her collection, her passion, her laughter, her garden all highlighted her true creativity… After all, Monet’s greatest creation was his garden…

St. Augustine, FL

San Augustine, the oldest city in the USA, was founded in 1565. On the northern coast of Florida, the area was first explored by Ponce De Leon over 50 years earlier, of course with his legendary fountain of youth rumoured to be located close by.

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Several attempts by both the French and Spanish took place in the ensuing years to populate the area, but mutiny and pirates made it impossible until 1565, when Menendez landed on the feast day of Saint Augustine. And so it was named.

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The city, with its deep Spanish history, has a wonderfully Mediterranean feel – having just come from old colonial Charleston, we didn’t think that cities in the USA could feel much more European, but San Augustine did.

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And, after several hours of wandering the pretty streets, to make us feel even more at home, we ended up in The Prince of Wales pub!

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In the Shadow of the Great Oak

Charleston, South Carolina, probably wouldn’t have been on our list of places to visit, unless a friend of ours had offered that we could stay with her mum. But as soon as we decided to head to the city, we started hearing great things about it.

I booked two gigs, we had a place to stay, and it was going to be gorgeous weather… what more could we want?

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Usually, we try to steer clear of the tourist spots. But, hosted by the wonderful Sylvia, who was born and raised in Charleston, we were given a tour of this European-style city through a local’s eyes – she knew the prettiest spots, the best food and lives right next to a quiet beach on the Isle of Palms.

We spent Sunday morning out kayaking on the blissful bay and were blessed to see graceful dolphins and a very protective mother osprey who warily saw us off from underneath her nest. A wonderful weekend, full of music, nature, new friends, great food and discovering the history of one of the USA’s oldest towns.

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But the town does have its darker side – the first shots of the civil war were fired against Fort Sumter from Charleston’s bay. They say the old Charlestonians still don’t really believe they lost the war! And in the centre of town is the port where almost 40,000 slaves were brought in and sold. It’s sad to think that so much of this great country was built on a inequality. And as racial tensions seem to have reached a new height in the past few months, we long for each of us to continue to move forward with peace, love and equality as our guiding pillars.

IMG_5201Charleston provided a great place for us to reflect. As we mark the one month milestone of our journey, we see that we are moving in the right direction, towards our goals – to be inspired and to inspire. We’ve driven over 3000 miles, and are on our way to the southernmost point of the continental USA.

As we sat under the Angel Oak, an ancient tree in South Carolina, I was reminded how short our lives our, in comparison with the all that history has seen:

oakIn the Shadow of the Great Oak.

Her branches have seen too much.

She seems to know, to feel, to whisper,

She stands long, old, proud;

Not moved by the days, not phased by our crises,

She counts the centuries on her branches.

A monument to time itself. 

LW

Integral Art with Whitney Ledesma

Apparently when I was two I started drawing little circles on paper, and I could do that for hours and hours… So all of my life I have enjoyed drawing. It was how I passed the time on long car rides and during classes and church services and any of those things…

Whitney Ledesma and I met in Sydney in 2009. I was studying music, she was studying painting. Almost six years later, we met again, on the opposite side of the world, catching up on each others’ journeys as artists, wives and dreamers.

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Whitney in her studio

Whitney, who has just moved to Hampton, Virginia, has known from a young age that she wanted to make art her career.

I had a really wonderful art teacher who pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and also gave me the confidence to believe that art could be a viable future. So I started taking all the art classes I could in high school, and drawing and painting. And I decided that that’s what I loved most, and I didn’t really want to bother with the rest of the subjects! 

It was some time during high school that I really decided, I suppose, to be a painter. It was something that I just enjoyed doing all my life, so I thought ‘if I can do what I love, then that’s ideal’.

Coming from an academically accomplished family (her father worked on his a PhD and her mother has a Masters Degree), Whitney never felt pushed down that path by her family:

 I feel like I’m really privileged because, for one thing, my parents always had the attitude that I was a gift to them from God, and that I wasn’t theirs to own or to live vicariously through.  So, though my dad was a physicist, and my mum more Maths and Psychology, they were very accepting of what each of me and my siblings wanted to do and pursue.

_MG_4281But also, my grandfather was an accomplished artist (my mum’s father) and my grandmother also… but she died when my mom was 24, so I never met her. But I did meet my grandfather, and I got to see his success as an artist, because he had retrospective shows and I got to go to some gallery openings up in Maine when I was a child. So I think that was very inspiring and formative. And I did see that, even in my own lineage, there was the possibility of making a living as an artist.

My mum used to tell me stories from when she was growing up, of when my family really didn’t have much in the bank account that month or week, they would actually go out to eat at restaurants, because my grandfather had bartered paintings for so many meals for his family at a restaurant! So I realised that it wasn’t always as lucrative as it was in his old age. But it took a lot of time to build up as a career.

One of the questions I always get asked as a song writer is “how do you write a song?”, or “what comes first – the melody/lyrics/chord progression?”. I had never heard a painter really explain the process that it takes to create a piece of art, but Whitney shared her own process and the time that she has to invest before she even puts any paint on the canvas.

Usually there’s something that sparks my interest in some way, whether it’s a concept that seems to be just coming up in conversation, or in media, or in my mind regularly, or something that I feel like I have learned and feel that I really want to share. So often, it can be something like a new understanding of scripture or some idea of identity of gender roles, something that I feel relates to the human experience but is also something that I can really deeply relate to. And then I tend to gather a lot of info and try to immerse myself in that idea, and almost do a research stage… if it’s going to be any good! 

So often I would jump into paintings previously, but that didn’t work out well because I hadn’t problem solved at all, so now I’m learning to have a process of sketches, and refine those sketches, and refine the idea so that I can move away from my first impression and more cliché ideas to something more nuanced and honest. And then I just paint it and see where it takes me.

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In the world of instant – photography, downloads, communication and even food – the art of investing time into an idea and allowing it to develop is becoming rarer and rarer. Whitney is an artist that still values, and sees the benefits of, lengthening her artistic process and the preparation time that she invests into her work.

I think with most of the arts, even relationships, it’s very easy today to be a fast consumer, and try to listen to short sound bites, or meet people for ten-minute coffees because you lead an oh-so-busy life. But then you only get a very small glimpse of the reality of something or someone. 

So I think when you’re willing to sit down and spend a couple of hours talking to someone and looking into their eyes, or when you’re willing to read a full novel or develop an art idea over time, and let yourself dwell in it a little bit, and go through the process of sketches and research and ideas, then you come out with a much fuller understanding of what it is you’re doing. You also have this body of skill and of experience that you bring to something that isn’t going to be present in a quick glimpse of something, or something that you snapped quickly or sketched in a moment. 

And even the way that the colours come together and the forms emerge and become more sophisticated… I appreciate the increase in level of nuance and sophistication that can come with years of experience and with development of work intentionally. I think it’s a much richer experience for both the maker and the viewer if both will take the time. 

 Which is partially why I’m personally not as drawn to the primitive styles of artwork. I can appreciate in some ways the really basic abstract, or the “five lines on a page” but I feel like that there’s a lot that can be gained when something is more interpreted and a lot more fully realised and developed.

As we sat eating frozen yoghurt, or drinking coffee, discussed music and life and futures, the thing that I valued most about spending time with Whitney is that she is a deep person. She feels deeply, experiences all forms of art deeply, listens to music intently, analyses creatively, thinks philosophically, dreams purposefully. Even as she shared her opinions on my music, I was surprised on all that she had picked up on – lyrically, musically, vocally.

And I think what Whitney sums up is an artist’s deep soul. Someone who longs to use the gifts they have been given to express their revelations, to inspire others, to offer a connection between souls where words fail.

I think seeing the look on people’s faces, hearing their comments and even knowing the fact that people have bought my paintings because it stirs something in them means a lot to me, because it shows me that there is something there at least; there is some validity to what I do and some hope of it actually making a difference of.

It’s a funny thing trying to live a creative life, and both of you know that of course. I feel that it’s a matter of being grounded in who you are, and that it’s necessary to embrace yourself and embrace your own worth in order to be able to give anything.

That has probably been a big progression for me, and is something that I would want to share with younger artists or emerging artists, be they 15 or 70: Art is an integral part of who you are but that it doesn’t make who you are, doesn’t define who you are. And when you know that you’re connected to your Creator, and that you have meaning and purpose outside of what you do, but that He can speak through you, then I think it’s a really powerful thing. Because it frees you from a lot of the self-doubt that can be associated with art, and a lot of the striving and grasping and frustration… not that there isn’t frustration still! But it’s a much more lively and fun process, or just less inhibited, than if I’m trying to prove myself to the world through art. 

Whitney’s work can be seen at www.facebook.com/WhitneyLedesmaArt

Buki Style

On the hottest day of the year so far in Vienna, Virginia, Michal and I sit down to a table bursting with Mexican food cooked by a Nigerian and an Italian. With six nationalities represented during dinner, as we caught up with our old friends, I am pleased to have made a new one: Buki Peters. Amidst the eating, drinking, good jokes, terrible jokes and rip-roaring laughter, I did my best to gather some sort of interview… And it wasn’t until our dear Peruvian friend politely joked that he was going to excuse himself to “set all of his alarms for the year 2016” that we finally got to really talking about Style With Buki.

buki19Buki, with her radiant smile and cheeky sense of humour, is a fashion and lifestyle blogger. Originally from Nigeria, Buki graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and now lives in Vienna, close to Washington DC.

I used to have a menswear blog. But I had to stop when I moved to Virginia, because I couldn’t find any men who would let me take their photo! In New York, I could take photos of guys with their clothes just anywhere. But here people are like “no… wait, what?”…

Style in D.C. is very different to New York. It used to be much more uniform. But now it’s actually changing… it’s become more eclectic and more international which is really fun. I think because of the variety of neighbourhoods in DC – there’s so much international fashion, which is being mixed with the DC uniform preppy look.

So after six months or so of trying with the menswear blog, I just thought ‘hey, I’m just gonna do me’. So I started doing my own blog – and I found my niche.

Buki, who currently also owns and runs her own day care centre, is about to take the leap to making her blog her full time business.

Right now, I feel like I don’t have a life! I work like 55-60 hours per week with the kids, from 7.30am-6pm every day. So I’m really excited about going full time – it will give me the freedom that I don’t have right now to go places and really invest the time.

I want to start sending out newsletters, doing giveaways, even having contributors; that’s where I want to go. For me, it’s really all about building community – I want my blog to feel like a conversation, not just a destination. I want people to be able to learn, discover and connect – and feel like they can be a part of that conversation too.

As she served us a huge slice of Rhubarb and Strawberry Pie (we are still struggling to get used to American size portions!), Buki told us that we were actually eating a pie that was a product of her blogging explorations

So one of the main features of Style With Buki right now is “Locals Luv”, which I love! I connect with a local: sometimes another blogger, or through instagram, or just a good friend, and ask them to show me around their town or city – but not the tourist stuff, it has to be the locals’ perspective. So today, we did “Locals Luv Leesburg”, and we went to this amazing pie store. It’s no bigger than this deck! But the pie came straight out of the oven!

So we just chat to people, ask them to share their stories, their perspectives. Sometime I send questions in advance, but other times if we visit a shop or a restaurant, I just say that we’d love to feature them and any of their products that they’d like to highlight. 

I started “Locals Luv” because I didn’t think I was gonna be able to travel so much now that I work for myself. I wanted to explore my surroundings and actually experience being here. Even Vienna, I don’t know that well and I live here! Something we wanna do is, if you can’t travel like to Europe, you can do “Florence for a Day” in DC – so you can like visit the Pantheon, then there’s super authentic Italian restaurants, there’s the desserts, the Italian markets. So you’re not leaving your town, but you’re enjoying it fully, with the locals who have made it what it is as they’ve immigrated from other places.

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I really hope it can be a way for locals to rally behind businesses and help build that community. 

Amidst the beautiful community experiences that she shares, the one thing you cannot miss when you visit Style With Buki is her wonderfully bright, beautiful and bold fashion. With her winning smile greeting you from every photo, each post, even the ones not about fashion, inspire you to brighten your wardrobe, and try new expressions in the way you dress. I love the fact that Buki mixes vintage with high street with her own ready-to-wear couture pieces, in her unique, unpretentious, joyful style.

I love people. I love style. I enjoy people getting together, and I enjoy seeing people learn. So I do DIYs (like bags, shoes) because I love seeing when lightbulbs go off. So I think it’s really fun when I do DIYs and people are like ‘hey I didn’t know I could do that, that’s awesome’!

I’m about to launch an online store too; to people can buy ready-to-wear pieces, bags, clutches, jewellery… But my favourite thing is people. I love people. When someone comes to my site, I want them to feel like they can relate, they can enter conversation, you know, and discover something new.

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Buki has been featured as a guest style editor in Marie Claire, and has had several TV and online appearances. It was wonderful to see her joy at the anticipation of what might be around the corner as she is able to fully invest her time and energy into bringing her passions together.

For now, it’s still quite local, like in this area. But soon I want it to go international – like I have a friend in Hong Kong, and I want her to do a “Locals Luv Hong Kong”. I love connecting people, and I really want to keep building this community.

It’s amazing when people are not just talkers, but doers. And Buki is true to her word about connecting people; as soon as she saw our blog, she wanted to help us, to link us with people in different cities, for us to contribute to the voice on her site, and to share her work with us to put on our site. So, here’s that first step… Buki Style!

LW

All photos courtesy of stylewithbuki.com

Frail Travelling Coincidences

House concerts are very different to a regular show in a bar or concert hall. By the time you start singing, you’ve already had the chance to meet most of the people in the room. So when you sing and share the stories, you are now sharing them not with strangers, but with friends. Your audience absorbs your songs, differently as well – you are not just a musician, a performer on the stage: you become a real person.

The first house concert I played was in New Haven, Connecticut. A Yale University professor asked me to come and play; he invited a few of his friends and colleagues without his family fully knowing what was happening. His son Max kept asking “Dad, what’s going on here?” and he tried to explain “You know the girl that was here a couple of days ago, Louise, is doing a house concert” … “OK dad, but what’s really going on here?”

_MG_4237It wasn’t until I mentioned the concept of house concerts during the show, that he finally realised that they’re really “a thing”. I guess that shows that house gigs are not common; they have become popular in some parts of the country, but to be honest, I wasn’t even sure what to expect from the first one.

It’s interesting to see what kind of people we will meet during these intimate performances. In New Haven the room was full of University and NGO people, fighting global poverty. It was an interesting crowd to be part of. But the second concert I was invited to play happened yesterday and was even more unique. In a joke, after the show, we were joking that they can take my music beyond ‘the cloud’, further than all the other music… because most of the guests were working for NASA.

700px-Nasa-logoAs we arrived into Yorktown, VA, the first thing that we heard, and then saw, as we got out of the car were strange looking jet planes flying above us. All the signs that we had seen for Military Bases, and NASA, on the way started to make sense! Little did we know it, but our friend Whitney, who we knew from Australia, is married to a scientist who works at the NASA Research Centre.

And only a few hours later we found out that half of the audience in the room was working at the same facilities, from contract coordinators to fighter jet pilots. It’s so amazing to be able to meet people from different walks of life, hear their stories, where they come from and where they are going. It’s also and incredible privilege to be able to share our stories and piece of our lives with them.

To use the words of one of my favourite poets, Philip Larkin, “these frail travelling coincidences” are beautiful – yesterday, a lady told me that as soon as I started singing, she knew that the evening was a gift to her that she truly needed that evening. And likewise, we were blessed with good food, inspiration, deep rejuvenating conversation and plenty of laughter.

As we are about to head south to Charleston, South Carolina, where I’m booked to play two pub shows over the weekend, we are hoping to do more of these house concerts along the way. So if you’re somewhere out there and you enjoy music, good company and having a classic Defender parked on your driveway,  here is our intended itinerary for the next couple of months. Let us know if you would like to host us for a house show, club show or a music festival, we might just be in the area. Just let us know at louise@louisewrightmusic.com

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May 11thCharleston – South Carolina

May 18thMiami, Naples, Key West – Florida and Georgia

May 25thNew Orleans – Alabama, Missisippi, Louisiana

 June 1stNashville, St Louis – Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri,

 June 8thChicago – Kentucky, Illinois,

June 15thMinneapolis – Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota

June 22ndKansas City, Tulsa – North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas

June 29thAustin  – Texas,

July 6thLA  – New Mexico, Arizona, California

Jul 13thSFO – California

July 20thPortland, Seattle  – Nevada, Oregon, Washington

Food in the Big Apple

When you come through New York City and if you enjoy food, you probably already know you’re in the right place. Especially if you like comfort food. In New York you can find any food you desire; pizza, hot dogs and pretzels are on almost every corner, and that’s why it’s so hard to find one favourite. Usually when we travel, I try to find a good pizza in a new city, but since there are so many to choose from, I didn’t even bother with it here. Although I do have to mention that I came across Artichoke Pizza and their signature artichoke slice which is amazing.

But the reason I’m writing it is to share my new discovery. To many it’s old news, but if you’re planning to visit the Big Apple, you have to try The Halal Guys food.

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“It all started in 1990, when the founding partners opened a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue, New York, NY. The saw a huge demand among the Muslim cab drivers needing to have a halal Muslim meal. They quickly exchanged their cart and began servicing halal food, which became a huge success. They focused on the enhancement of their products to make it different and enjoyable. From that time, they pledged to use the best halal products to serve the public. During that time, they created their special magic white sauce and fiery hot sauce, which our public loves.”

Excerpt from http://thehalalguys.com

_MG_4155I had the chance to try their food a couple of years ago, but it was a leftovers from take out that I found in our friend’s fridge, without knowing where it was from. When we came through the city this time I decided to find out who makes this incredible chicken and gyro meat over yellow rice. As it turned out it was not that hard. Their carts are still there whey they started 25 years ago, plus they opened bunch of other shops that you can find on their websites. The choice is simple: chicken, gyro or mix. It is so good that even as we were driving from Westport, Connecticut to Atlantic City, we had to take a detour and pick up some goodness for the road.

So next time you’re in town, don’t forget to treat yourself to The Halal Guys.

MSJ