challenge, the first

•April 19, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Dearest Fred, 

My first bloggy challenge to you is quite simple: take three pictures that sum up your weekend and post them here next week. I will do the same. I figure that we can start with an easy one. 




you can’t miss us if we never go away

•April 18, 2012 • 2 Comments

Hello World,

Have you missed us? It is only to be expected. Mere years ago, we were America’s number one news source, trusted and beloved by the masses, and then we cruelly, pathetically, and unintentionally stopped posting. Well, we’re back like a boomerang and ready to catch you up on what you’ve missed by answering some of the most frequently asked questions from our fan mail during our sabbatical from cyberspace:

Why haven’t you been posting??? What could possibly be more important than this blog read by millions of devoted fans? How are we supposed to get up in the morning?  

~John G. Roberts     Buffalo, New York

John, basically we’ve just been too busy to bother.  We were both unemployed for awhile [a long long while], which made it really difficult to get everything done that we were used to doing at our desk jobs. Then Fanny got engaged and married and started graduate school, and Fred did a lot of odd jobs like paint signs for liquor stores and sell Italian furniture before moving to New York City and getting a fancy adult job (No, not THAT kind of adult job, you know, like one that has a salary and benefits … get your mind out of the gutter, John) ordering Starbucks for her bosses. In answer to your third question, we suggest a coffee machine with an automatic timer, two to four alarm clocks, and a contraption that rains scorpions down on your pillow ten minutes after the alarm sounds.

evidence that things have been busy.

Give us an update! What are your lives like now? 

~Christopher Robin    St. Paul, Minnesotta

Fred is living the bohemian dream in New York City, dying streaks of her hair red, moving across town every few months, spending all her money on concerts and trendy food and attempting to cross every bridge out of Manhattan on foot in 2012.

Fred's foot modeling debut

Fanny is establishing domestic felicity in Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband (torso pictured above) where she is studying social work, cheering on her husband in law school intramural softball games, and making invitations for friends’ bridal showers using Martha Stewart scrapbooking tools.

evidence of making invitations while at an intramurral softball game.

What can we expect from SoleilSphere this time around? How will things be different? Can we learn to trust again? 

~Chris Gaines   Los Angeles, California

Great question, Chris! We’ve decided to mix things up a bit. Even though the name no longer resonates geographically in our lives (Paris to NYC, Knoxville to CVille), we’re sticking with the idea of leading semi star-crossed lives in separate cities. We will issue challenges and topics to one another, answer the questions on each others’ minds (much like Fanny has answered the questions on your mind above), and attempt to blog about our totally normal lives in a terribly lively and innovative way. Pictures will be frequent (though admittedly more domestic), friends will make appearances, and Fanny will wow you with her wively duties. Fred no longer runs a food blog, so you’re spared that blip on your Google Reader, but perhaps eats will be occasionally featured. What insights, dear readers, do you want into our lives? The future of Soleilsphere is yours (but really ours).

Fanny and Fred

’tis the time

•March 22, 2012 • 1 Comment

Dearest Fred,

Can we resurrect this fallen hero? I am bored in class right now and think that the time has come. 

Viva la procrastination, 


Per-ew and Colombia too

•July 13, 2010 • 1 Comment

Mom, Dad, and other people less concerned about my safety: I know you haven’t heard from me in a couple of days, but fear not. I am still alive and well in the land of fried guinea pigs and women in bowler hats. I am writing this from the Lima, Peru airport after six action-packed days in the glorious country of Peru, so because we have a 4-hour layover and I haven’t blogged in awhile, this might be long. I’m also a couple of posts behind Joe’s videos so I’ll throw his last two ones in at some point on this blog.

We spent our Fourth of July learning to love America more than we ever had before by traveling for about 24 hours on buses between Chile and Peru. It was the grossest experience of the trip to that point (although the coming days did give it a run for its money). After an overnight bus from the Atacama desert in Chile to the Chile/Peru border, we felt so exhausted and disgusting that we figured we’d rather press on and take another bus to Cuzco, Peru rather than spend the day at the border and ride another night bus.

At first, everything seemed as if it would work out perfectly. Sasha found a bus company that she had used before and was pretty nice that had a bus leaving in 15 minutes for Cuzco that had open seats, so we bought tickets. When it came time to load the “bus” we found out that our ticket actually covered the cost of a taxi across the border to a bus station in Peru where we’d actually board the bus. We met our taxi driver Juan and the adventure began. The first thing Juan did (after angrily arguing with the man who sold us our tickets about something we never understood) was ask for our passports and then disappear. After fifteen minutes of standing in the parking lot wondering whether or not we would ever see him again, Juan returned, tied half of our luggage to the roof of his car and put the rest in his trunk, which he refused to close. We still didn’t know where our passports were and before we could ask Juan disappeared again. Perfect. Eventually Juan returned with our passports in hand, and we squeezed into his car and headed for the border. We successfully went through customs, crossed into Peru and drove 20 minutes through the empty Peruvian desert. When we arrived at a town, we figured we must be at a bus station, but instead Juan told us that we needed to change cars because his Chilean car could go no further. We loaded all of our stuff into a Peruvian taxi, and Juan hopped in the back on top of the luggage. For the last leg of the journey, Juan chatted with us over our shoulders about his love for “John Wine-ay” (John Wayne). When this second taxi finally dropped us off at the bus station, Juan kissed Sasha and I goodbye and warned us to watch our bags and trust no one because “Peru is dangerous.”

Juan and the gang

Relieved that our hour-long ride in two taxis actually got us to a bus station instead of to an early death, we prepared to settle into the bus and try and sleep a bit, but this soon proved impossible.  At first I was very impressed with the service on this bus.  The steward came through and told us all to fasten our seat belts and handed out candy.  Then, he pulled out some sort of ukulele/mandolin type instrument and a flute and did a little one-man band show; however, we were confused when he came through the aisle and demanded money in return for the candy he handed out 15 minutes before. We didn’t have enough Peruvian currency to pay him, so he demanded we give the candy that we hadn’t eaten back. Shortly after that, the bus stopped to let him off, and it was then that we realized he didn’t actually work for the bus company.

a peruvian one man band

The trip continued to be a bit confusing. Once we all got off and switched onto a significantly smellier bus for no apparent reason. Shortly after that they asked everyone to get off the bus and walk through a building where we all got back on the bus on the other side… really efficient transportation.  Once we stopped and the driver let out anyone who needed to go to the bathroom, so we got to watch as half of our fellow passengers did their business right beside our window. Several times we’d stop and people would come on the bus and walk up and down the aisles selling various goods from cups of jello to bags full of meat and mushrooms floating in some unidentifiable liquid. The woman behind me bought and ate something that appeared to be a piece of meat with the fur still on it. Most of our fellow passengers seemed to be locals, and (not to be mean… they mostly seemed like delightful people) you could really smell the difference. The odor, combined with the fact that the man sitting on the seat across from us had a bad cold and continually spit onto the floor made us not really want to touch anything, so the ride became a bit wearing. Joe thought he might need his tailbone digitally fixed again after so many hours of sitting. Sasha confessed that she was so bored that she started to pray, although she never really decided to whom or what she was praying. The general smelliness and unidentified slime in our surroundings had us feeling pretty stuck up. And then God saw fit to smite my pride.

I had been feeling a little sick for a couple days, and every hour on that bus seemed to be longer and more painful than the last. I don’t know if it was the stale air, the motion of the bus, something I ate (well we hadn’t eaten anything other than a piece of bread all day, so that probably wasn’t it), the change in altitude, my slightly higher than recommended doses of Chilean cough syrup, or the fact that my body hates me and likes to pull these sorts of stunts, but about 3 hours from our destination I told David that I was probably going to throw up at any minute.  I was able to hold out for awhile, but about an hour and a half later I became the smelliest person on the bus. Joe had given me a plastic bag in which to toss my cookies if the need arose, but when the time came, I discovered that the bag had several holes in the bottom because my jeans and sweatshirt were instantly soaked in vomit. About this time, we heard several children scream and felt two distinct bumps as the bus tires ran over something. Our driver didn’t slow down. Joe told us not to look backwards because he was fairly sure we’d just killed a child, but the woman behind us assured us that we’d hit a dog and the kids playing with the dog had gotten out of the bus’s path just in time. I managed to hold my next wave of ralphing in until I was sure I wouldn’t throw up out the window onto the kids who were crying over their dog. The rest of the ride I spent shivering in my soaked clothes while David was incredibly sweet to me and rubbed my back and stroked my hair even though I smelled, looked, and felt like Oscar the Grouch.

When we finally arrived in Puno, Peru, we decided to stay in a real hotel (and not a hostel). I got to sleep in a room with only Sasha and in my own bed. We had a television and our own bathroom and ordered room service. It was glorious.

The next morning, we took a boat out on Lake Titicaca and visited the floating islands. Because I’d been recycling the contents of my stomach on the bus ride the day before and wasn’t feeling chatty enough to ask the others where we were going that morning, I actually thought we were going to see islands that naturally floated. Actually, the floating islands are made from soil and roots that naturally float to the top of the water during the rainy season and people tie them together and stack reeds on top to form islands where family’s live and a whole community and culture exists. It was actually pretty amazing and one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. The family whose island we visited had just cut their island off from their former neighbors’ island and towed it over to a new location. They were really friendly, taught us about various aspects of their culture, took us on a ride in a boat made of reeds, and sold us some handicrafts.

The next day, we took our final (and significantly more comfortable) bus ride from Puno to Cuzco. When we first arrived in Cuzco it seemed that we’d finally arrived in a city that was less beautiful than America. The area around the bus station and the train station was the first place on our trip that reminded me more of Tanzania than Europe, so we figured we wouldn’t try too hard to find a nice place for lunch and ended up having an adventurous meal at Wally’s Polleria. The restaurant seemed to be run entirely by children under the age of 12. When a 10 year-old boy took our order he informed us that our options for lunch were either ¼ or 1/8 of a chicken.  Every order automatically came with an appetizer of soup that was broth with a chicken’s claw floating in it. Fancy. Right after lunch, we walked up a couple of blocks and discovered that Cuzco is actually a very beautiful city with several lovely squares and cathedrals. After a night in Cuzco, we took a scenic train through the mountains of Peru to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Pichu. The town is almost entirely a base camp for tourists visiting Machu Pichu, so every building is either a hotel, a restaurant, a souvenir shop, or a massage parlor. After settling into our lodgings and purchasing our tickets to enter Machu Pichu the next day, we decided to all get massages. For about $13 each, we all got hour long massages. Mine was absolutely delightful, so I was a little confused when everyone else came out looking like they wanted to cry. Apparently the kind of massage that everyone else got might be illegal in the states. For whatever reason, my lady spared me the more violating parts of the massage potentially saving me thousands on future emotional therapy. For a post-massage cleanse, we decided to go to the hot baths for which the town is named, but the baths ended up being just about the only thing that could’ve made us feel dirtier. There were about 2 people per square foot in luke warm baths that were about the color of a yoohoo. We could only stay in for about 15 minutes before getting so grossed out that we went back to the hotel to shower.

The next morning, we got up at 4 am to hike to Machu Pichu. It was about an hour long hike on a steep uphill to the ruins and then we got tickets to hike another hour up to the top of a mountain with more ruins overlooking the main site. They only let a limited number of people up to this highest point overlooking all of the other ruins, which is why we started hiking so early. I was (unsurprisingly) the weakest link and was feeling rather nauseous and dizzy, so I spent a solid chunk of both hikes wondering how it would effect the campaign if I fell as a result of dizziness and slid down the mountain and died. I guess we’ll never know. When we got to the top, it was totally worth it, and we got to see breathtaking scenery and old famous rocks.

the mountain in the background is the second one we hiked

We took a train back to Cuzco that night and Joe left us the next morning to head home. Sasha, David, and I had one more day in Cuzco, which we spent eating, shopping, eating, getting another massage (Sasha was very clear this time with the people about how far was too far), eating, and watching a parade of traditional Peruvian folk dancers. And then we ate again after that.

giant guinea pig float

lonely hipster tourist next to a float of a backpacker

Because I didn’t actually post this after I started writing it, I am no longer in the Lima airport but actually in a courtyard in Bogota, Columbia trying to hide from all the pot smokers in our hostel. Columbia has been way cooler than we expected. When we were driving from the airport to the hostel, David said, “This looks like Houston,” but to be honest, parts of it look nicer than Houston. Don’t tell him I said that. In certain parts of the city you really do forget you’re not in America though. I didn’t expect to be driving down a busy street full of yellow cabs past a Blockbuster and a sports arena in Columbia. There are some really beautiful old parts of the city and quirky bohemian areas as well, but all in all I’d say Bogota has been a lot less different than we expected. I am once again feeling as if I’m going to vomit at any second, so this has not been my best day, but we’ve still had a good time. David took a bike tour of Bogota today in a group comprised entirely of gay guys from New York and led by a very liberal Rasta dude. He felt right at home. I wasn’t feeling up to biking, so Sasha and I saw many various types of treasures at both an outdoor market and the Museum of Gold. It was a beautiful museum with lots of cool jewelry that I wanted to steal. They also had Pre-Colombian gold vessels for holding old school cocaine, which I wanted to steal less but were still interesting to see.

treasures from the market

bad eye sight is common among Colombian Barbies

i want these monkey bangles

don't know what it is but its shiny

Ok, its now actually another day again (no worries Mommy, I am not feeling sick anymore)…. I keep not posting this and then feeling like I have to add more so its up to date. We spent most of the day today with Sasha’s friend Luis. He took us to an underground cathedral carved into salt mines, which was really interesting. Luis’s maid cooked us lunch at his apartment, and then we toured the city and went to a museum of Botero paintings and sculptures, which was a real boost to our self-image.

salt cathedral

oh to be young and in love!

... like i said

Botero has a lot in common with Sir Mix-a-lot

luis, david, and sasha marveling at the lights of Bogota

I may get Sash to ghostblog for me about Bogota more later, but right now I am really tired, and we’re getting up in 6 hours to fly to the airport and go back home! To be honest, Mom, I’m sure you’re the only one still reading this at this point anyway.  Sorry its so long!



san someone, chile

•July 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

hola folks,

we are now in san juan/diego/pedro/antonio, chile … i can never remember. hold on let me check… ok, its san pedro de atacama… anyway, wherever we are, its a very charming, hipster-touristy town. all of the one-story adobe buildings look like your average mud and stone flat-roofed huts, but you walk inside and find a North Face store or a trendy restaurant and bar with fire pits, mojitos, and creme brulee. delightful.

today (and by today i mean yesterday…. it wouldn’t post last night) has been the longest day of our lives. but in a good way. we woke up at 3:40 am to catch a 4 am 10 passenger van for the 2 hour ride to see the sunrise over a field of geisers. it was incredibly beautiful and -20 degrees celsius. i lost 2 toes and 3 fingers to frostbite. almost. afterwards we had the chance to get into a hot spring pool, but to absolutely no one’s surprise who knows us, only joe thought it was worth getting wet for 20 minutes in water. on the drive back, we stopped and watched black birds walk across a frozen pond (i’m sure the guide told us we were seeing, but no hablo espanol) and went to a ghost-town of a village where we walked through empty streets and ate llama meat. delicious.

something about this place made me expect to see dinosaurs. we didn't, though.

just before joe got in the pool behind us.

just before joe and sasha were attacked by the smoke monster.

the random llama-meat-filled ghost town where we stopped

the random llama-meat-filled ghost town where we stopped.

joe and david with the black birds on ice.


we came back to our hostel ready for a late dinner and bedtime, but realized it was only 11:30 am. distressing.

the rest of the day was spent playing cards, reading, exploring san wherever-we-are, and trying to determine whether or not we were going to be assassinated when the power went out. the good news is that we all survived. the bad news is that it interrupted  2 minutes of our 30 Rock watching time. disturbing.

tomorrow night we head northwards to PERU on another overnight bus, but i am guessing that ride won’t be fun. i have had a cold the past couple of days that i caught from sasha (it was pretty much inevitable when 2 nights in a row i tried to snuggle up close to her for warmth in the bed we were sharing and woke up to her coughing into my nose), and i am afraid it might hit the boys tomorrow. if that’s the case, we’ll have a very cough-filled, sleepless ride. daunting.

and the latest video from joe…

there are no molten lava cakes in this chili’s!

•June 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

hidey ho neighbors

we successfully snuck across the border from argentina to chile and are now peacefully residing in valparaiso, chile. val po is a town that seems to have immigrated from the amalfi coast and has more canine residents than humans. (fredrick dearest, the similarities to our former homes of Positano and Sorrento is overwhelming… it makes me miss both you and prosecco immensely).

look familiar, freddy?

look familiar, freddy?

many of the brightly painted buildings stacked on the hillsides running down to the sea are covered with beautiful murals and graffiti. we’re staying in the nicest place we have so far… david found an apartment in a hostel for only a couple dollars more that gives us a kitchen and a little living room. perfect for playing late night card games and early morning movie trailer watching.

yesterday we wandered around the city visiting several outdoor markets selling smelly fish, tables of screwdrivers and west virginia sweatshirts.  we visited several shops buying more knitted goods than we have room for in our backpacks. we took a boat tour through the port, which thanks to sasha’s negotiating skills they gave us a $4 discount and let us drive the boat. we saw sea lions and a penguin. we had tea on a lovely square where 4 beggars and 2 dogs and 35 pigeons scared us into quickly returning to the nice part of town. perhaps because we’re staying in such a nice hostel, we felt obligated to treat ourselves to a nice seafood dinner in a restaurant overlooking the city. they had stain glassed windows with clowns on them. a truly enchanted day.

can you tell the difference between this flag and the texas flag? me neither.

can you tell the difference between this flag and the texas flag? me neither.

we all bought sunglasses

we all bought sunglasses

here is another video from joe to make you jealous of us:

le blogaroo

•June 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Greetings Earthlings,

I’m back from the dead, er, um, France, as I’m sure most of you already know. Just as many predicted, my blogging fell short and/or nonexistent in the final months of my tenure as an ex-pat, usurped in priority by activities such as finishing up my mobile-kitchen project, plotting and failing to purchase a little French  kitty (Il serait s’appeller <<Eiffel>>), and planning my internationally-themed birthday party just days before my departure. With the exception of the kitty (sooo expensive!) my last month was tinged with success. Still, I wish that just somewhere down the line in architecture school, I would be allowed to design a building, because in my 3 studios at Columbia, I still have done everything but that. As for the birthday party, one’s presence was made possible by the bringing of an international food item that (preferably) referenced one’s “roots.” I, par example, made sweet tea. Over the course of the evening/morning, we made our way through Italian caprese salad, polish sausages, cakes from Brittany, 10 bottles of wine that cost a collective total of 15 euros, cheese cheese cheese, garlicky green beans, some killer home-made French onion dip, home-made applesauce, and 5 boxes of French cereal. It was a classy affair. My program director showed up late and gifted me a bottle of Smirnoff (“I didn’t know what to get you, so…”). We put it in the sweet tea.

Communist Party Headquarters, Paris, Niemeyer

In the week leading up to this smorgasbord, I visited the French Communist Party Headquarters not once but three (3, trios) times. It’s this wacky building by Niemeyer that’s actually fantastic and I had to draw it until I got it right. I went on tours; I made friends; I was offered a job by my favorite tour guide and a membership. I declined, with regrets.

And thusly concluded my expeditions in Francia. If Annie and I continue to blog on this blog (take it or leave it, amigos), hopefully you will be seeing more joint-posting. En fait, this past (ok, now more than just past) weekend, Fannie and I traveled to the magical land of Bonnarrooville, where one cannot sleep past 6:45 am for fear of being burned alive by the sun, where famous comedians without jobs make fun of infamous hippies without jobs to their faces, where one might wait one hour for a drop of potable water, where showers are as rare as sobriety. We watched more live music in 4 days than I’ve seen in my entire life, and it was nothing short of wicked cool killer jammin’. At Bonarroo, face paint costs the same as a coffee ($5), some women choose to paint their “shirts” on their bodies, the World Cup played on an outdoor big-screen TV, people develop dreadlocks in 4 days, and it’s perfectly kosher to frolic through the fields between shows, leaping and dancing to music coming from all directions.

Bonnaroo in 2 photos:

2 Unsafe Situations:

Every day, I painted my face with whiskers like a cat. Every day, Fannie let me loose for a couple hours while she took calls from angry people needing guest passes, swiped us ‘free food’ from the Important People Buffet, and made use of her administrator status by securing a business-related golf cart so that we could at least whip around with the wind in our face for a few hours every day on the “official business” of carting around Julia Nunes and her band. Her job had some serious perks; we were able to access the jetta and escape into the booming metropolis of Manchester some mornings before the music started, once for a shower, often for local diner grub, and always for Starbucks.  I was gifted a “That Pass” which gave me access to the Free-Water, Free-Jeremiah Weed (that’s a beverage, Mom), and Free Schmoozing with Famous Artists and Music Industry People.

Fannie, a Minor Hippie and Roovian VIP

Amanda, a Cat (+ 1/2 of 1 day’s schedule)

Reba, Engaged (but wearing no pants in this picture)

We ran into Sinclair Tucker serving ice cream out of a truck with flowers in her hair. We went back(ish) stage and stalked Gillian Welch and the sons of Mumford. We drank a 2-liter of red wine that I’d siphoned from bottles pre-entry to Bonarroo because Annie forgot to tell me that glass was strickly forbidden, and attended the Flaming Lips concert in knee-deep mud into the wee morning hours of Saturday. Annie attempted to do some campaigning, but our companions didn’t even know who was running (Bredeson? That Hayslum guy?). We saw (I’m sure I’m forgetting some) Local natives, Here we go magic, Blitzen trapper, Julia Nunes, Punch Brothers/chris thile, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Diane Birch, Umphrey’s McGee, Damien Marley & Nas, She & Him, The National, Tenacious D, Kings of Leon, Flaming Lips(they played Dark Side of the Moon – WOW), Conan OBrian, Brandi Carlile, Norah Jones, Dave Rawlings Machine/gillian Welch, Mumford & Sons (and then DRM played with them!), Avett Brothers, Weezer (shockingly fun), Stevie Wonder, Ingrid Michaelson, Les Claypool and Regina Spector…

DWM and GW and Munford&Sons

Punch Brothers + That Stage

As we drove off into the sunset (our trashbag still attached to Fred’s side mirror on the Audi), we knew that our farmer’s tan would fade, the face paint would wash off, and our clothes would eventually smell normal again, but these disgustingly sweaty and unattractive pictures will live on forever:

During the Flaming Lips:

After the Flaming Lips:

Best weekend ever:

Love y’all!! Fannie, come home, immediament.