Friday, April 23, 2010

Packing for the Jet Plane...

It's time to go Stateside again - I return for my own work about every 8 weeks to the states, but I'm also frequently on the road in London and other locations.  You'd think I'd have packing down to an exact science by now but it's not quite there, though I am getting pretty good.  Inevitably, I always forget one key item but I seem to largely get myself 97.6% of the way there.  In the words of my mother though, as long as you have your ticket, your passport, and your credit card, everything else you can buy on the spot. You'd also think that the ticket portion would be obsolete these days, but I can't count the number of times I arrive at an airport in Europe, or in Africa, and they demand to see at least the paper print out of something....

I have a key packing list that I typically trot out each trip - some adjustments I make for summer vs. winter but I also always turn to this list from Town and Country.  I keep a printed copy in the zippered pocket of my bag and just keep handwritten notes in the margin of my adaptations....Obviously, adapt as necessary based on the functions you'll be attending but this is always a good starting point - you can add or pare back as necessary.

So for those packing and looking to remain in their carry on limits - here's the recipe for success:

What to Bring
· 3 pairs of pants (two for business, one pair of jeans)
· 2 skirts (n.b. i like to pack one black pencil skirt and one black wrap dress instead)
· 2 jackets (a lightweight blazer and a suit jacket that can be dressed up or down)- i find one suit jacket is often enough unless I have several client visits then I take two
· 5 tops (three business, two casual, one of which is a white iron-free blouse)
· 1 white T-shirt, which can be worn under a jacket or at the gym
· 3 cashmere cardigans (one black, one cream, one in a bolder color)
· 1 dress for evening, business or pleasure (a simple shift works best)
· 2 or 3 scarves (they're light and easy to pack)
· 3 pairs of shoes (pack two pairs -- one comfortable pair for business, one for pleasure -- and wear a pair of flats on the plane)
· 5 sets of underwear
· 5 pairs of socks, panty hose or tights
· A few pieces of distinctive (mostly inexpensive) jewelry, plus a small jewelry holder
· 1 envelope purse or clutche
· 1 mini umbrella
· Lightweight sleepwear
· Gym clothing (including yoga pants and packable athletic shoes - n.b. I like the Nike Free series since they can be crushed and are very lightweight)
· Lightweight stretch cord for easy exercises
· Chargers
· Converter (Tumi's electric adapter is particularly versatile)
· First-aid/medical supplies (depending on your destination, consult the "Travelers' Health Kit" list at
· I also always pack an expandable Longchamp duffel bag which I envitably use and check on the return flight if I'm planning to do some purchasing while in the US

IN YOUR TOTE BAG - Typically since these are work trips,  I personally will divide these between a laptop bag and my never-full LV purse
· Cosmetics kit, including liquids in a quart-sized plastic bag - nb. i always pack several extra plastic bags as well
· Comb and brush
· Prescriptions
· Personal electronics: laptop, BlackBerry, iPod, camera or cell phone for US
· Pashmina
· Paperbacks and magazines
· Travel wallet able to hold driver's license, passport, credit cards, itinerary and airline tickets
· Glasses, sunglasses, contact case

· Pair of black pants (microfiber is good because it doesn't wrinkle)
· Cotton or cashmere top
· Suit jacket or cardigan
· Pair of flats
· Pashmina or cashmere stole
· Trench coat or lightweight parka

Full article and photos can be found at Town and Country Travel Magazine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My New Favorite Show...

As I've referenced before,  when my husband is traveling, one of my guilty pleasures is to watch runs of ABC shows online - often it's the usual suspects: Private Practice, Brothers and Sisters, and  - dare I admit it?  - the Bachelor... But I'm pleased to announce I have a new favorite show.

I've been admiring Jamie Oliver ever since eating at his restaurant Fifteen in London the first year it was open, where he selected fifteen disadvantaged youth - kids who were otherwise homeless, unemployed, or battling addiction, and taught them how to cook basic - but restaurant quality - dishes.  I have to say it was one of the more inspiring meals I've had and the concept later kicked off to several other cities.

This year, Jamie has come stateside, tackling the issues of nutrition in American schools - namely in Huntington, West Virginia.  Of course he's met with some resistance to his ways, means and intentions but on the whole,  I have to say how impressive it is that Huntington - who statisitically was shown to be the "least healthy" town in the States - would be willing to invite someone like Jamie in for his help and to be humble enough to honestly show what it is that they're doing in terms of nutrition and food for themselves and their families.  While the lessons can be tough, ultimately Jamie isn't there to judge, but to show people what excessive amounts of processed foods can do to your health and well-being, and that it is possible to change things without spending additional time and breaking the bank. 

The episodes, while I'm only a few in, are truly touching and alarming at the same time.  There's a moment where he shows children - who look like they're in the 5-6 year age group - vine ripened tomatoes and asks simply "What is this?".  He's met by the sound of crickets until one child yells out "Potatoes!".  To see that is both sad and eye-opening, to think that we could have become so far away from basic foods and their preparations.  Also, when not wearing Huntington themed clothing items, Jamie seems to be spending a lot of time dressed up as peas in a pod, or some kind of tumored grasshoper.

Follow along on to see if the town is able to make sustaining change!  And support the "Food Revolution" by signing the petition to improve school lunches here.

All photos from

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

California Dreaming...

Homes in California always seem to have this breeziness to least, the ones featured in magazines do.  They alwasy seem to say, "come on over and stay a while, we've got wine in the kitchen and the grill going in the back".  Maybe I'm idealizing but it's always refreshing to see.  This month's issue of Elle Decor  showcases this very vibe in Ellen Pompeo's home  - while some parts are a bit spare for my taste (not very Vienna at all! here it's baroque or bust), most spaces convey an easy approach to living, even if movie and music stars do live there.  Ellen even makes a point of mentioning in her interview that when she first described what she wanted for her home to their designer, he thought that she wanted a house for college kids.  "What can I say?" she says, "it's a happy place". Seems like a perfect way to live.

Ellen's home nicely mixes pieces from around the world without looking like a Pier 1 showroom, and nothing seems to precious or overdone.  Check out Ellen's source for global chic from the Parisian store Caravane.  It's definitely on my "to-see" list for the next Paris trip!

All photos from

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Diplo-style: Joan Holloway

I know I'm not the first to admire the style of Joan Halloway, the all-knowing, all capable Office Manager of Mad Men,  and I'm sure I won't be the last,  but the recent interview with Christina Hendricks in Esquire reminded me all over again the level of class that she brings to this character both on-screen and off.

She is always appropriately dressed for the office, in well tailored - but not well revealing sheaths - accessorized with one statement piece and impeccably coiffed.  This is a woman who knows what fits her body, and dresses accordingly.  No stringy hair, no dirty flip flops, no inappropriate lingerie on display, no unhemmed pants...all common occurences in many a workplace today.  It might be old-fashioned but I like it, and like it even more in that many of the outfits are timelessly relevant.  And of course, anything that was relevant in the early 60's will continue to be relevant in Vienna!

Notable Quotables from Joan:

"Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest."
--Season 1, Episode 1: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
"Your decolletage is distracting."
-- Season 2, Episode 5, "The New Girl"

All photos from

Monday, April 19, 2010

Object of my affection...

Ever since I opined publicly about my affection for the Carrington necklace - and for Blake Carrington himself - I keep seeing even more necklaces that catch my attention.  Over the period of the past week or so, I just keep seeing more interesting ones (oh..okay, some I've been eyeing for awhile!) - From the always preppy chic of Kate Spade, to the bargain options of Ann Taylor Loft, to the quirky vintage designs of Elva Fields, there seems to be insipiration everywhere! So with 10 miles securely under my belt, it seems like another treat might be in order?

Photography from Kate Spade, Elva Fields, and Ann Taylor Loft.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pasta mia!

Pasta,  pasta, pasta! Of course running in an event means pasta the evening before, and in anticipation for the big day, we had everyone over for a feast of carbs, runners and non-runners alike.   By the time of the pasta dinner, we were able to secure the missing third man for our relay team, who stepped in bravely to an otherwise all ladies squad.  He came into the party, and after chatting about the race logistics, he asked in a very non-chalant way "So what are we shooting for?".  Cue blank stares from us ladies.  We ask, "What do you mean?", and he repeats again, "What are we shooting for, at the race?".  I reply "The finish line?".  It turns out that our brave stand-in is trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon - alas, I don't think we're going to be the team to get him there....But we can offer pasta!

Our stranded friend's husband, who came in from Zurich via crowded over night train, is actually running the full marathon.  Given his "real runner" status, I catered the menu to his request, although to be fair, he only requested "Pasta with to-MAH-toe" sauce, nothing too chunky, nothing to spicy, so homemade marinara it was.  The marinara sauce is an improvisation from the book Two Dudes, One Pan:

Marinara Sauce:
  • 3 x 400g cans of crushed italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon (about) of roasted chopped garlic - yes, I cheat and use the kind from the jar, and yes, I know I should chop my own but I'm always in a hurry - the original recipe calls for 20 sliced cloves of garlic which seemed like a lot of slicing and I had to pick up our race numbers!
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil - n.b. while i was making the sauce this seemed like a lot - I would reduce if using the marinara sauce as a topping (e.g. on ravioli, on a meat etc) but when tossed with all the pasta it turned out fine
  • 20 leaves of basil - i add a little more, the dudes say to add them whole but i don't like whole leaves floating around -  looks like seaweed - so i cut them into medium strips with kitchen scissors
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chili flakes - i actually didn't have these on hand so skipped this time, am sure they would have added a nice kick
To make sauce: heat olive oil in and garlic in pan, toast until fragrant (about 5-7 minutes) on medium heat, add tomatoes and stir, let simmer about 45 minutes, add basil at end and season to taste.  Can freeze.

The full menu looked like this:

Rigatoni Marinara
Conchiglie (shells) with pesto and fresh mozzarella
Radicchio and spinach salad with mushrooms, red onions, cashews and balsamic dressing
Salami platter
Assorted grissini
Lemon Tart
Chocolate Tart
Berry Fruit Salad

Now they only thing we're missing for the race is a recording of the Final Countdown!

Photography by The Bad Girl's Kitchen.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Schnitzelettes vs. The Volcano

Of all the things that could potentially stand in the way of The Schnitzelettes (our marathon race team! we also refer to ourselves as the Wunder-barrettes being unable to make a final decision on a name) completing this weekend's marathon, I would have never, ever pegged a ever-morphing ash cloud as our potential final demise! Injuries? Maybe. My potential un-preparedness? Possibly.  Too much wining and dining? Potentially.  Torrential downpours? Small chance.  But volcanoes? Never.

Our third runner - our "third man" if you will to be more Vienna appropriate - is stranded in London - calling all 10K runners? Calling all 10K runners! We'll be needing a volunteer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ode to joy...

One of the toughest tickets in town is to see the Vienna Philharmonic (Wiener Philharmoniker) - and in typical Viennese style, obtaining tickets is a mysterious process known only to locals, or it involves paying exhorbitant sums of money to third party providers - at least, this has been my experience so far.  Unlike most other shows, who by now have at least some form of online purchasing (though inevitably not for the best seats or at the best times), for the Philharmonic it completely depends.  Sometimes you have to call, sometimes you have to write, sometimes you have to send a fax (to which no one will reply).  Usually, to get tickets, you pretty much have to be a subsciber and the wait is currently averaging about 13 years.  And you can forget the New Year's Day concert - best to stream it in from NPR.

All of that to say that I was overjoyed when the Vienna City Marathon made seats available for the Philharmonic's performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony - which I've always wanted to see live....the sweeping vocals, the timpani clashes, the grandess of the ensemble bring back a mixed bag of visuals including my wedding recessional and a Clockwork Orange. 

The catch for these tickets is that they were to a rehearsal (which, incidentally, was never specified by the Marathon organizers) so it was a bit strange to walk in, all dressed up for the show, to see the full orchestra and choir in jeans and sweat shirts, but it ended up being a delightful experience, full of starting and stopping and the Conductor's encouragement and frustrations.  Currently Christian Thielemaan is recording all 9 cycles of Beethoven's symponies for CD and DVD - and now we can say we were part of it.  Bravo!

Photos of the beautiful Konzerthaus Wien - and an indication of what the Philharmonic would have been wearing if we had procured real tickets!

All photos from the Vienna City Marathon

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hip to Vienna

Everywhere I look these days, Vienna, or at least Austria, seems to be popping up in articles showcasing what to see and where to be seen....First there was the New York Magazine article about "Skipping the Schnitzel", then the New York Times Magazine article highlighting the Schnappsmakers of the Alps and return of small, artisan distilleries.  They even went to far as to recommend this as a top travel destination of Spring 2010 - sign me up!

The latest ode comes again from the New York Times Magazine, this time in the Spring Design issue, featuring an interview with Renee Price, Director of the Neue Gallerie.  Pretty cool gal.  She gives her recomendations for visual treats around Vienna, as well as NYC...Here's how to get the Neue Look....

And for those outside of Vienna, you can get a taste of Vienna's classics at the new Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum's exhibit dedicated to selections of glass and design from the great J&L Lobmeyr's (more on one of my favorite locations in Vienna to come in a future post!)...

Enjoy the hipness of the Hapsburgs!

Renee Price and her Neue Galerie Shop Pics:

Making the Schnapps in Carinthia:

Lobmeyr Selections at Cooper-Hewitt:

All photos from New York Times Magazine, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Object of my affection....

Every so often there's an object or item that catches my eye, or catches my fantasy.  Not always practical, but just something that you see and makes you feel as though "I just have to have it"....Every once in awhile I'll cave in and treat myself, and every once in awhile, I let it slide and remember it fondly somewhere on down the road (where inevitably I ended up wishing I bought it on the first go around...)

Today's "objet" is the Carrington Crystal Bow necklace from J.Crew - I've been hemming and hawing about it for some time since it came out and I might just have to bite the bullet.  First of all, it's named "Carrington", and immediately brings back memories of watching Dynasty reruns in my grandparents' apartment in Poland - 80's style drama with completely monotone Polish voiceover performed by the completely monotone gentleman that provided all of the voiceovers for all imported programming in Poland well until after fall of the Wall.  It was an era all its own, all the more poignant with the recent passing of John Forsythe, who played the inevitable genleman in Blake Carrington. He would still be at the height of fashion in Central Vienna.

The necklace seemingly combines just the right mix of modern edge in the chains, with nods to the Hapsburg empire through the crystals, and of course, bows never go out of style in Vienna.  So the only question now is "antique gold" or "dark charcoal"?

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Paris Apartment there a greater city? Olivier Gagnère's Paris apartment was featured in April's issue of Elle Decor, and this colorful gem is full of surprises.  Perhaps cheetah-print upholstery isn't for everyone, but it definitely is fun, and this is certainly the home of someone who's been around the world a few times and bothered to notice what he saw on the way.  For me he scores the highest diplo-style marks on the gray-lavender living room, with orange striped seat - definitely a combination that's both out of the ordinary and soothing at the same time.  Now if Olivier would only be interested in decorating my Vienna apartment... Those mirrors would look rather fine over here...

All photos from - full article available here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Field Trip: Sopron

When living close to the former divide of Europe, or what my husband and I like to call "East of the Danube (EOD)" and "West of the Danube (WOD)", after a particularly brilliant commentary letter written to the Economist magazine some months back,  you notice that somethings really do change when you cross the mythical border, though drastic differences are becoming harder and harder to discern. In some instances, it may be a change in infrastructure, in some a change of demographics, and in some a change in prices.  This last difference is what drives Austrians and expats across the border to Hungary in droves on sunny weekend days.

Sopron is located in Hungary, just about 10km past the border, and about 70km from Vienna.  It's a town with a lovely medieval town center, and remnants of a Soviet-era industrialization attempts at factories, but what it's really known for is its post-Wall proliferation of services in the categories of picture framing, dentistry, dry cleaning and cosmetic procedures.  Quite an amalgamation.  We came for the picture framing (though the promise of a botox pedicure package was alluring), stayed for the goulash and enjoyed a stroll into town.  And in the end, we did pay about a third of what framing would cost in Vienna and got it done in about an hour....that's service.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Diplo-style: Dr. Addison Montgomery

In Vienna, I find that I'm often standing in front of my closet wondering "What should I wear?".  Not an atypical question for anyone, but seemingly I do it more often here.  What's the type of event? Is it a local event, international event or the American community? Am I going on my own or in the capacity of "the wife"? Is it an official function? These are all questions that help me narrow the choices down,  and inevitably I end up going back to the same basics: sheath dresses with a jacket or sweater, a black pencil skirt or tailored pants with a crip white shirt...and then I try and set off the basics with one catching accessory that's not too over the top (Over the top seems to belong in baroque details here, not on people). 

Invitations don't provide a lot of guidance on what to wear, and when they do it's not particularly useful.  Guidance such as "Wear national costume or lounge suit" doesn't mean too much to the average young American, no matter how traveled, and it leaves you with images of potential trick or treating opportunities and neon cocktails with the Bee Gees in the background - neither of which fit on the Vienna scene.  So picking an event ensemble is an instinct you develop over time, but when in doubt, turn to the classic fashion icons for know who they are...Coco, Grace, Jackie, Audrey - the usual suspects.  The funny thing about Vienna is that their style is never out of style - in that sense, when in doubt, just pick something that was fashionable in the 60's - it's still relevant here.

However, I'm always on the lookout for modern insipiration too and find that in the character of Dr. Addison Montgomery  - ever since she waltzed in to Grey's Anatomy wearing that knockout Gucci pencil skirt and killer heels, she conveyed the image of classic but forward.  In Private Practice, they've adapted her look to be a bit more friendly towards the sunshine of southern California, but the basics are still there and would work for almost any occasion in Vienna: sheath dresses, pencil skirts, and comfortable tailored basics, and of course, one catchy - but not too catchy - accessory.  When it doubt, turn to a recipe that works...

All photos from

Friday, April 9, 2010

Run, Lola, Run...

We're just about a week away from the Vienna City Marathon. I wish I could say I was running it - actually I'm not even sure that I do - but I'll be participating with the easier route.  I'm running it as part of a relay team with three other ladies, and we're all avowed and committed "non-runners". "Oh, running you say? Yeah, we don't do that..."

Except for this time we are doing that.  And since it was great idea of yours truly to sign up for this endeavor, I'm also the priviledged holder of the longest segment of the race: 16km (10 miles). For some strange reason, the Vienna Marathon Relay is not divided into four segments that are equidistant. For some reason, it's divided into segments that range from 5km to 16km, just to add some spice I suppose.  We drew straws and I got the short one.

For you runners, I'm sure you scoff and chuckle, but for someone who was ready to head back for a nap after a 2 mile run/walk when she started, I'd say I've made some progress.  I downloaded a training guide, bought some decent shoes and started pounding the pavement.  This past weekend was the first time that I actually thought I might be able to complete my segment - a good thing too, since in addition to having the longest segment, I also have the first.  Needless to say, it would be a bit anti-climatic to everyone else if I wasn't able to do my part.

In any case, the best part of prepping for the race next weekend is putting together the playlist and I think I'm just about set.  Here's what I'll be plowing forward too - I can't claim that every song is tasteful or has artistic merit that's widely recognized, but I can say that each helps me keep picking up my feet.  Left foot...right foot...left foot...right foot...

Ps - Today's photo is actually borrowed from a blog called "Iron Ann" - Iron Ann looks serious about running.  In a post she mentioned spin class, weights and a "long run" (which I'm guessing is over my paltry 16km) all in one day so I'm thinking these might be her legs in the picture? Nice work, Iron Ann!

Vienna Relay Day Playlist:

Under Pressure - David Bowie & Queen
Let's Get it Started (Spike Mix) - Black Eyed Peas
Go (2006 Mix) - Moby
A Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix) - Elvis Presley
Fire Burning - Sean Kingston
Disco 2000 - Pulp
Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson
All the Small Things - Blink 182
Gives You Hell - The All-American Rejects
Bad Romance - Lady GaGa
City of Blinding Lights - U2
Extreme Ways - Moby
American Boy (featuring Kanye West) - Estelle
Run This Town (featuring Rihanna and Kanye West) - Jay-Z (note the Vienna appropriate shout out to Reisling in this song, apparently the rap community has made the switch from Cristal and Hennessy to crisp, good-value white wines due to the recession)
Human - The Killers
I See You Baby (Fat Boy Slim Edit) - Groove Armada
Flashdance (Dance Mix) - Deep Dish/Ministry of Sound
Good Girls Go Bad (featuring Leighton Meester) - Cobra Startship
Hung Up - Madonna
Hold My Hand (I'll be there) (featuring Keri Hilson) - Sean Paul
Now That We Found Love - Heavy D and the Boyz
Walkin' on the Moon - The Dream & Kanye West (you'll note Kanye is a reoccuring theme on this list)
Paris is Burning (Cut Copy Remix) - Ladyhawke
Broken Strings - James Morrisson and Nelly Furtado
Love Etc - Pet Shop Boys
Fix You - Coldplay
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