This way to adventure!

Hi there!

I’m Emily. I’m a writer living an unexpected expat life fueled by coffee and adventure. Home is where my art is.

(Currently: Brussels)

How do you like them pineapples? (Brussels ed.)

How do you like them pineapples? (Brussels ed.)

One of the first Foreign Service words I learned was “Drexel.”

Once Joe and I decided we were in it for keeps, I wanted to learn everything I could about what it might be like to live the Foreign Service Life. As his more-than-a-girlfriend-and-sorta-fiancée, I wasn’t yet eligible to join the couple of Facebook groups open only to FSOs and family members but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from reading every publicly available account of this oftentimes goofy life. It didn’t take me long to find this super awesome list of U.S. Foreign Service blogs. (I’m pretty sure I read them all overnight. At least the good ones, that is.)

It also didn’t take me long to learn that my life would soon be filled with Drexel. Loads and loads and loads of it.

I wish that “Drexel” was a super secret FS code for something amazing. I wish it was anything other than the furniture we’re stuck with when we’re at a furnished housing post.

It seems like everybody has a hate-hate relationship with Drexel. You don’t get to choose which line you get and most of it looks, as one of the bloggers so aptly described, like it “belongs in the last Marriott you stayed in.” Plus, if you break it (which is entirely too easy to do with the high-scratch veneer package they seemed to have chosen), you buy it. Only you don’t even get to buy it — you pay damages and move on your merry way to your next post.

I mean, I understand that it’s probably much more cost-effective to give us furnished housing rather than pay for us to schlep even more HHE (household effects) than we’re already allotted. But is it too much to ask for furniture that doesn’t look like it belongs in my parents’ house circa 1985?

The one upside is that living with Drexel seems to evoke incredibly creative thinking amongst “Drexpats” — there are Pinterest and discussion boards devoted to making the best of what we’ve been given as we try to make our homes ours for as long as we’re in them.

I got plenty of inspiration and some great tips from The New Diplomat’s Wife and Unaccompanied Baggage. And even though my stuff’s been unpacked for months and my art is finally up on the walls, I’m always drawing more inspiration from what others are doing to make their house a home — just the other day, I saw this absolutely gorgeous do-up on Novakistan.

I should probably admit that, while I don’t love the Drexel, I don’t totally loathe it — it seems to work well enough with my decorating style which I used to call “World Market threw up in the living room” but now know is my own version of “Foreign Service chic.” Even the totally stodgy curio cabinet looks pretty OK filled with my Malagasy baskets and Turkish pottery. Somehow, I feel like I’ve pulled a Tim Gunn and made it work.

Want a tour?

{Is it totally a Midwestern thing to give tours of your home when folks come over for the first time?}


The House of Stairs
Our split level house is a pretty typically Belgian suburban home. It’s stacked on top of our garage and touches our neighbors’ but the houses are completely different (i.e. it’s not a townhome or row house). We started calling it the “House of Stairs” because it’s got almost 30 of them from the ground floor entry to the top level.

The split-level living floors
These are probably my favorite in the house — it’s the one area where I feel like everything comes together really nicely. I actually really like the layout here and am excited to throw a party that spills out into our tiny backyard now that the weather is getting a bit nicer.

The sleeping floor
It’s nice to have a place with plenty of room to host overnight guests. The only real downside is no closets, but I’ve taken over the smaller of the extra bedrooms as my dressing room. (Not pictured: our 1.3 bathrooms — who makes an en suite with a shower and sink but no toilet?!)

My lair
Joe’s happy in the garage, but I need a place to write and work. One of the first things I did when getting here is make this office my own. I ditched the gold brocade curtains for something that would let a bit more light in and covered up the stripy armchair with a throw blanket gifted to me as I left St. Paul. (The same friend would be delighted to know that the “Keep Minnesota Passive-Aggressive” poster has a place of honor that no guests will miss.)


And about those pineapples…
Pineapples — thanks to some rather unfortunate lamps that float about the furniture pool — may very well be the official unofficial symbol of the Foreign Service. Sure, the fruit is a sign of hospitality, but us Drexpats claim it as ours thanks to the dreaded “pineapple murder lamp” so named for its brass motif covered in specks of red. Yes, it’s a thing and yes, you might end up with a living room full of them. How do you like them pineapples?

They're going somewhere AGAIN?!

They're going somewhere AGAIN?!

City Break: Celebrating in Vilnius

City Break: Celebrating in Vilnius