Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pouf! It's a Flash Sale

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The story behind these hand-stitched leather poufs from Morocco is a terribly long one, but I won't bore you with the details. All you need to know is that they'll be on the site for three days only at a special price. They won't be stuffed and we'll ship them to you FREE if you live in the States (Alaska and Hawaii, excluded). There are only seven poufs in stock, 2 gray, 1 blue, 1 cream, 1 brown, 1 green and 1 orange. Offer expires at midnight on Friday!

These are great for indoors and out (as long as it's on a dry surface) and would be great casual seating for spring and summer gatherings. Click here to start shopping the first Loaded Trunk Flash Sale!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Story Behind » Burmese Lacquer Bowls

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Our vintage Burmese lacquer bowls, still in excellent condition, were originally used for meals, holding soups and curries. I found these in the attic of dealer I work with in Northern Thailand. They were covered in dust and I imagine they had never been used due to the proprietor labels that were still affixed. Many of them have inscriptions that often are the signature of the maker.

The bowls are made of coiled bamboo and then lacquered in varying shades of red and/or toffee brown with accent colors for the designs. The flared rim bowls are typical of mid-twentieth century ware of Ava. Marked by paper stamps from the original proprietors, the labels, affixed to the inside, are easily removable if you choose to use them for dining. Click here to see all of the great bowls and other lacquer pieces including offering vessels and trays.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seeing Green

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Feeling fresh today so I rounded up my
favorite green things from the shop. I love that
green is this year's Pantone color of the year –
a great, versatile color for spring in any shade.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Last Stop…Essaouira

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We had long planned to end our Moroccan travels in a seaside town with the explicit plan of relaxing and taking in the sea breezes. As with most places, we weren’t quite able to relax with all the hustle and bustle that goes along with any dining or shopping experience in Morocco. However, Essaouira proved to be downright calm in comparison to all of the other Moroccan cities we had visited. Jimmi Hendrix is said to have written Castles on the Sand with this place in mind. Essaouira is also known for its Argan oil.

Essaouira, a white-washed and breezy town, is located right on the water and boasts an incredibly easy-to-navigate little medina. Our lovely little riad, Dar Ness, was exactly what we had hoped for and more: quiet, small, and priced right. We spent several lovely hours each day reading on the terrace and soaking up the sun (and avoiding the sea gulls that dive-bombed our breakfasts!).

James, the proprietor, offered us many good dining suggestions and was supremely helpful in organizing a taxi transport all the way to the airport in Casablanca. We did, in fact, have the best food on our trip in Essaouira; just none of it was Moroccan!

On our first day we haggled for grilled fish by the pier, but the fish was over-grilled and really, after haggling everyday in the souks of Fes and Marrakesh, the last thing we wanted to do was haggle for our meals. So we decided to hunt out the quirky: our first dinner was at Dar Loubane which was decidedly quirky. Run by an older French couple and filled with random bric-a-brac, the sole meuniere and chocolate mousse was a welcome change, not to mention the fact that they had wine on the menu.

We spent our last day in Morocco browsing the relatively quiet streets of the medina and reading on our terrace. Our last dinner was at another quirky place, Dar Baba. Run by an Italian, Dar Baba serves authentic homemade pastas and cheeses. We were a little skeptical as we had just spent several days eating in Rome, but we were glad that we stumbled upon it. All 5 tables were happily eating and sending recommendations our way. It’s unfortunate that we hadn’t been able to find as many positive dining experiences in Fes or Marrakesh as we did in Essaouira, but we were glad that we ended our trip there. All in all, starting in Fes, decidedly the most chaotic of the cities we visited, and ending in Essaouira, the calmest of the cities, was a solid decision: we entered Morocco at its craziest and departed Morocco at its calmest.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More Marrakech

 (Left) Ryan posing with my newest treasures, vintage camel reins.

Local Sunday Flea Market
Surrounded by the walls of the old Marrakech medina, you never know what you’ll see. My daughter was looking for a specific blanket, but in true flea market fashion, never located it and saw other treasures instead. We stumbled across these vintage camel reins that have such amazing tactile qualities. It's one of those finds that don't quite make it into the shop because I've fallen in love with them too much. They now hang above my bed as a headboard of sorts.

Maison de la Photographie
46 Rue Ahel Fes | Medina, Marrakech
Although off the beaten path it was well worth the hunt! It is an oasis in the madness of the Souks. The food was lovely and the views from the roof terrace are spectacular. It's got a fantastic collection of exquisite black and white images images from 1870-1950 of Morocco.


Moroccan Street Food – The Jemaa El-Fna Night Market
Favorite food experiences were at the Night Market where we went from place to place eating almost live snails popping out of shells, spicy sausages...you name it! Take your time walking up and down the aisles – scope out the energy, food and customers at each stall before you dive in. The video above gives a pretty good peak into the sights and sounds of the night market.

Yves Saint Laurent – Jardin Majorelle Marrakech
A bit of serenity just a short walk from the medina, the Berber exhibition inside is a truly excellent montage. Outside and across the premises, rich, deep cobalt blues highlight the landscape and draws you in.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Morocco – Marrakech


The medina was already buzzing the evening we arrived in Marrakesh. Brightly lit stalls with mounds of oranges and bins of apricots, dates, nuts, and figs surrounded the main square, Jemaa El-Fnaa. At the gate of the medina, we were immediately enveloped by the “do-gooders” trying to direct us to our riad. With my trusty old Blackberry which I save for travels like this, sim card fully loaded, I called the riad we had booked, and within minutes, Pierre and Simone showed up to whisk us to our very lovely “home” in the Medina. We loved our riad, just off the main square, but down a side street which ensured a quiet’s night sleep.

The sun is blindingly white, I’m squinting even with my sunglasses on. We take refuge in the shady lanes of the souqs, trying not to look directly at the brightly colored pottery, metal lanterns, hand-stitched leather purses, and silver mirrors, otherwise the merchants catch us looking and launch immediately into their hard sell, chasing us as we keep walking. We know the marrakeshi merchants are ruthless – they step into one’s path, blocking the way, commanding us to look at their shop. I dodge, and they chase after me yelling “Oh madam, why do you not like Moroccan men?” Small boys sell packets of tissues and big balloons while women sells baskets and cookies.

When we make eyes at something we want to buy, we realize that the prices in Marrakech are exorbitant as compared to Fes, and the shopkeepers seem angry at us for counter offering a price that we already know is reasonable. With hard bargaining skills, we often emerged triumphant, but one must be firm and be prepared to walk away if the seller refuses your final offer (so tough!).

My favorite purchases in Marrakesh were, of course, the lovely little sugar pots which we tracked down after failing to purchase them in Fes. Other highlights were hand-woven scarves purchased from the best-dressed man in the souk, tiny hand-tooled leather purses, and leather Tuareg camel reins.

As expected, traveling in a unfamiliar terrain comes with frustrating challenges. Every time we paused to consider which direction to head or to take a peek at our map, a boy latched on to us, demanding money to show us the way, even though we protest loudly that we don’t need any help, merci. Taxi drivers refuse to use the meter, and ask for a fare that we know is quadruple what we should be paying. Maybe it’s not any worse here than it was in Delhi, Kathmandu, Hong Kong, or Kuta, but it feels more ruthless. We are exhausted.

Every restaurant plunks down a free dish of olives when we sit down, and they are delicious. The olives make us crave good cheese and good wine, though we can’t find either. Wine and beer are on the menus in the fancy hotels and restaurants that are filled with well-dressed Europeans, but impossible to find at the more affordable places where we mostly eat. We spent two hours out in the no-man’s land of the ville nouvelle finding our way to one supermarket, and then another to buy a bottle of wine and some crackers to enjoy on the terrace of our hotel. Alcohol consumption seems so secretive here that we feel like we are smuggling drugs back into the medina.

It's funny when you travel in exotic places that require you to be on point and use so many senses you did not realize you had! The truth is that in any country no matter the different customs, at the end of the journey people are people and a smile and a hand shake and a bit of warmth gets you a long way.