Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Milkshakes Better than Yours

A pleasant surprise on this trip to DC has been the scores of new places that seem to have cropped up, especially around 14th Street (hurrah property value!) and around Capitol Hill.  I've tried to make the rounds to get a feel for the new places, some have been great and some less so.  I seem to notice that pretention is making an comeback in DC - I feel like we go through this phase every few years when a new influx of residents has an identity crisis about not living in New York instead.  That said, there's always benefit to having new blood around. 

One of the places that was particularly pleasant was Ted's Bulletin.  While I was first confused by the gang of interns wearing what appared to be rompers in the entry area and drinking PBR out of cans (I assume they either ran of our glasses or this is supposed to be some kind fo hipster charm?), once seated in the back I enjoyed a pretty satifying Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Butter milkshake...perhaps a bit high in protein but satifying to the last drop.  The menu seems to be full of comfort classics and vintage type fonts - both a weakness for me.  Ted's definitely makes the "try it again on the next trip" list.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Object of My Affection: Summer Necklaces

Hurrah! Summer sales are on! With the pending arrival of the new diplomat's baby, I have to admit clothing shopping is not as much fun.  There are only so many muu-muus one can consider as an ensemble.  However, since nothing from the "real world" fits, and since maternity clothes only seem to be available online in sizes that don't make any sense, I've used my in person shopping time stateside - where everything seems to be mere pennies on the euro - to explore my new found love necklaces and other jewelry, since there are no sizes on them. 

I'm trying to keep the expansion of my collection in proportion to the expansion of my mid-section (and top section), and a jaunt to the sale rack at Anthropologie yielded some particularly fine finds and particularly minimal prices.  If you're in the market for accessories, now's a great time to stock up.  I'm also pleased to report that I was finally able to score one of the original objects of my affection at Kate Spade for a song as well.  The theme of the late summer lookbook is now "distract from the middle!".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chipper Up!

Another Fargo treat not to miss are the all famous Fargo "Chippers".  What is that you might ask? Nothing other than chocolate covered potate chip goodness - and with the spirit of local patriots, the chips themselves are sourced only from Red River Valley potatoes.  No agri-business intruders here!  That's right, sweet and salty and maybe not quite so healthy in every bite.  My grandmother always has a box for me at the ready when I visit and I hide them away here at home and have a few at a time to make them last longer (and also, so that I don't end up eating them all at once and looking like a Chipper myself).

They're made at Widman's Candy, and back in our high school days, all of my girlfriends seem to have landed jobs at Widman's, while I got stuck being a tennis instructor and working at the Gap (the trade off being that I had a great tan and still know how to perfectly fold t-shirts and jeans to uniform sizes).  Someone told me once that the Queen of England once had a to make (what i presume was an unscheduled) stop in Fargo years back so they took her to Widman's for her very own box of Chippers.  If they're good enough for QE, then they're good enough for me!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Favorite Things: Zandbroz Variety

When at home in Fargo, I always like to make time for a quick stop to Zandbroz Variety.  A fixture in the downtown of Fargo back when the only other establishments were the VFW and the government building (which are still there), and now accompanied by lots of cool other venues such as a martini lounge, wine bar, and actual decent restaurants (you might laugh, but some of these things that we take for granted in other cities were a long time coming in Fargo), this was the place to go if you need a gift, a lift, or just to kill a bit of time. 

I always end up with something in hand from here - a beautiful coffee table book, stationary (you can never have too much paper), a picture frame or a coke float (I don't like root beer) from Dakota Soda,located in the back where the staff never seems to be able to count out change in an efficient manner, but they're always polite.  I've taken countless visitors here, and have been here countless more times all by myself.  It's reassuring to me that it's always been there, especially since it had to "make it" back when these shops were truly an oddity in this part of the heartland.  They'll always have a small piece of my business every time I come home!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Headed home...

Headed off tonight for a quick weekend home town visit in the lovely Fargo, North Dakota...Say what you will about it, it turned out to be a great place to grow up and will always have a piece of my heart.  And North Dakota itself gives you a whole other understanding of wide, open spaces.  To spice up the equation, in addition to having my own parents and grandmother there, my in-laws are also flying in for the weekend (first-timers direct from the Eastern seabord!), as is my husband, for a regular little house on the prarie reunion....

More to come after the visit - at least it's not snowing!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One of the treats of coming to this side of the pond is the occassional first-class burger.  Nope, they don't have them in Vienna...I mean, there are places that will try to sell you one, but I don't even think they bother making any claims about their quality - Austrians are honest that way.  It goes without saying that one does not order burgers in Vienna.

But here, a good burger is pretty easy to come by.  We have our favorites out and around town: Peacock Cafe for Georgetown, Clyde's for Chinatown, Good Stuff for Capital Hill, 51st State for Foggy Bottom and Five Guys for hangovers.  And for a day at the office, there's Ray's Hellburgers, corroborated even by the President himself.  Is there hype around it? Sure.  Does it look like a two-bit flop house on the interior? Sure.  Does it probably have a billion calories? Sure.  But who cares? It's a great burger. And greater still since it's such a rare treat.  I like mine with white cheddar, cognac mushrooms, grilled onions and tomato.

Even nicer still is when your co-workers organize a burger lunch and are willing to go out to get them for you so that you don't have to brave the 100 degree heat (heat that makes you realize why DC was still considered a "tropical hardship" post for the British up until the 1980's before the widespread advent of air-conditioning).  Now that's a fine way to have a burger - thanks team!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guest Post: Workin' Nine to Five...

It's a way to make a liiiiiiiiivin'! Sing it, Dolly! Given that this Monday, Monday has me working out of our traditional office back here in DC, I'm featuring a guest post from a good friend and now, as of very recently, fellow blogger on office attire.  While I wouldn't peg myself as "old" (though some of my co-workers might, ha ha!), I do seem to gravitate more and more towards the "kids these days" type of reaction when examining office attire either at the workplace or around town, especially now the interns have descended upon a steamy summer DC season with their complete collection of flip-flops.

From her new blog, Todo de Lujo, here is Miss Lujo herself on the subject of office attire.

Nine to Five

One of my besties, Liz, is embarking on her high-powered law career and asked for my take on a good office wardrobe for her. I’m not the best-dressed girl out there – but I do think I have dressing for work down to an art.*

I put some pieces together for inspiration, but the more I thought about it I realized that when it comes to my professional wardrobe it’s not about what I have - it’s what I DON’T have. The key is to put constraints on the realm of the possible to hone your look and, more importantly, to make your life easier. If you do this well, you’ll have a closet full of clothes that mix and match well and always look sharp. So, I thought that I would also take a stab at writing down my rules for dressing for the office. My rules aren’t anything you haven’t heard before – but if you stick to them it might keep you from buying that random skirt or top that you wear once and never wear again. If you are doing a work-wardrobe overhaul I would recommend purging your closet as a first step before you go shopping. [Also – these rules are for work only! I’m not saying you can’t go crazy on the weekends]

My Five Rules for Professional Dressing

1. Wear heels. Yes, everyday. I don’t care how cute you think your flats are, or if you REALLY REALLY can’t walk in heels. Yes you can. It’s not hard. Wear heels in the office. Everyday. They don’t have to be very high and they don’t have to be very expensive, but a little bit of height goes a long way. In the defense industry I tend to work with mostly men, both as colleagues and as clients, and I like to be able to look them in the eye. The guys in my office like to say I’m 5’5” but I play 5’10”. Trust me, it matters. I love shoes but I don’t have that many. Here are my recommendations for a solid stable of work shoes:

For Summer

A pair of patent nude heels [they make your legs look great, I promise]

A pair of light animal skin heels are a nice alternative to nude and add some texture to all black ensembles

A pair of black patent leather peep-toe pumps

A good tan or neutral wedge is optional – depends on how conservative your office environment is

For Winter

A couple of pairs of patent black heels [chunky mary-janes, a sturdy mid-height heel]

A pair of suede pumps [black or grey] add texture in winter and look great with opaque black tights [black suede pumps with black tights have the same effect as nude heels in summer]

A pair of black booties is optional – again, depends on how conservative the office is

All Seasons

Standard pair of pointed black pumps

That’s sort of it. I’m not opposed to more colorful shoes, but I tend to put my money into good quality basics. If you do get more adventurous, I would not sink a lot of money into it. Oh, and there is never [ever] a reason to wear red heels in the office.

2. Invest in dresses. The dress is my go-to outfit when I’m feeling sick, when I’m feeling fat, when I’m feeling hungover. I have a dress for all of those days. I think I own almost 20 black work dresses. That is probably a bit much, but I wear all of them and have had some of them for more than five years and they still look great. I am a big believer in the dress. It’s easy in winter [long sleeved wrap dress] and in summer [a cool shift dress]. It simplifies getting ready on stressful mornings, packs well and always looks sophisticated. I love dresses.

3. The perfect white shirt is not just for men. A crisp white shirt looks great with scarves, under a black suit, with a skirt or pants. It won’t compete with big jewelry, and is the perfect top when you are trying to get away with wearing black jeans in the office on a Friday [not that I do that]. Make sure it is well tailored and doesn’t gap between button holes and you are golden. Mine are non-iron tailored fit from Brooks Brothers but there are lots of great options out there. See this Forbes article.

4. Don’t forget about color. This is the rule I most often forget. I pretty much only wear black suits and otherwise tend toward neutrals [lots of grey] so it is easy to fall into a color trap. Guys in my office also like to joke about me never wearing color — something about being a witch… Not wearing color makes some people feel sad, it makes me feel confident. I tend to default to inserting color through scarves and cardigans. Having one great dress in a solid color is also a good move – just be sure it doesn’t read trampy.

5. Accessories keep you from looking like you fell out of the j.crew catalog. A high-low mix of accessories is as important to making your look your own as a high-low wardrobe is. This is also an opportunity to insert some youth into an otherwise conservative look. I mix my wedding rings with bracelets from H&M. I wear jewelry from my mother and pearl earrings from my husband paired with inexpensive jewelry from my travels. I love oversized costume jewelry [pearls always play well in DC] to brighten up black dresses. A good bag for meetings is also essential – you don’t want to walk into a meeting with a small purse juggling your portfolio and everything else that doesn’t fit in it while trying to pull out your card and shake hands. Invest in a good black or neutral colored work bag; get something functional that you like and you’ll have it forever. You don’t want to be that girl on the train with three shopping bags full of her things and her “it bag” that doesn’t hold any of it over her shoulder.

*****These rules might seem super boring and square, but unprofessional dress in the office is actually a huge pet peeve of mine. DC is full of interns and 22 year olds that try and pass off their college going-out clothes for office wear. It makes me insane. It can be difficult to be taken seriously in the business world as a young person, especially as a young woman, why make it even harder?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Diplo-Style: Dita von Teese

It's perhaps an unconventional choice but I've always been intrigued by Dita von Teese.  Not so much by her marriage to Marilyn Manson, which I've found to be an odd pairing (even more so when he ran off with 19-year old Evan Rachel Wood, who then started dressing exactly like Dita), but more because of the throwback style that looks so natural on her despite the fact that it was entirely developed by her for her persona.

Dita's is not a look that I would copy item for item (though one shouldn't copy anyone's look anyway)- my workplace is no place for corsets and cherry-bomb red lipstick, and it would be a bit much for Vienna.  They're retro but perhaps not quite yet at burlesque.  But she embodies the whole notion of a woman "getting ready" for an event, even if it's just to sashay down the sidewalk.  And she doesn't do it by pumping herself full of face fillers and fake baking, but by doing her hair, staying out of the sun, exhibiting good posture, knowing when and where to cover up (and when and where not to), and most importantly, by clearly having a good tailor on hand.

And also, the woman sings from a life-sized champagne glass...where do I even get one of those?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Headed west across the pond...

Took off today for two weeks of work in the US - I'm prepared for lots of office time and DC humidity! Just plannning on catching up on critical issues as reported by Vanity Fair, rom coms, and hopefully a nap en route, despite Lufthansa's attempt to create a completely disposable aircraft.  The seats seem to be thinner every time I get on board (I brought my ruler this time, barely two inches at the headrest and completely made of styrofoam)....but I won't complain (this time!) as it's summer travel season and given the full flight I was still able to change my ridiculous middle of the middle section seat into a window seat in the second row (second row of economy that is, that's how we roll in the recession - actually this is the way my company has always rolled, recession or no).

See you on the other side of the friendly skies!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Cheers for Life!

Headed to the Life Ball this evening - crossing my fingers that we don't get rained out of the opening ceremony! More pictures after the event! Time to get dolled up!  I hear Dita Von Teese will be attending this year so I think I'll go for a retro look...

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Directions...

We received a bit of a treat in the mail a few weeks back from my thirteen year old niece back home - Season 1 of Glee.  To be honest, right of the bat I was intrigued but thought it had huge potential for corny.  I'd been putting off starting the season, knowing that I would either love it, and watch it all in one go, or hate it, and then have to make up reasons why I didn't finish it. 

But this weekend in it went and needless to say, I loved it.  I've always been a sucker for teen angst anyway.  All that pent-up drama...I actually have to give the writers a lot of credit - there's a quite a bit of adult humor between the lines (which makes me wonder if the junior high community is catching all of these jokes or if they're meant for parent chaperones?).

In any case, here's to the arrival of season 2!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Truly Smitten with Truly Smitten

You might have noticed that there's been something a little new, something a little different about The New Diplomat's Wife since back from "the mgmt's hiatus".  And you might be just about right.  While on break, I was able to use the time to complete the design process of the new blog header, which was done by the very lovely and very talented Sarah Kim-Puangsuvan over at Truly Smitten studios. 

I first came across Sarah when she was a guest blogger for 100 Layer Cake and featured some of her work and studio shots in her introductory first post.  Despite now being married for a few years (celebrated #3 just last week), I still check out a few of the blogs from time to time.  Let's face it....HR consulting might pay the bills but it's not whimisical or the stuff of fantasy, so on a rainy day, I still like to see what's new.  Laugh if you want but where else will I find good ideas for floral arrangements, birthday parties and other do-dads?

In any case, I dug Sarah's style from the start: lots of vintage fonts and swirls that haven't been repeated elsewhere and a super-pleasant demeanor to boot! Check out the new calling cards as well as some of her other cool works!

All Photography by Sarah at Truly Smitten.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day everyone! Management was on hiatus which explains the lack of blog postings since June but there were trips to be had and work to be done!

In honor of the French National Holiday - which unlike the US National Holiday, did not include much other than a massive military display on the Champs D'Elysees rather than lots of barbeques and summer riotry.  However in commemoration, I thought I would share a few of my "favorite things French".  There's not enough room for all of them but here are the top 5.

1.   Macarons from Pierre Herme - quite possibly the best macarons out there, though they're closely followed by Yauatcha in London, Laduree in Paris and if we have to make do in Vienna, then Oberlaa.  Perfectly light cookies, with perfectly butter cream center in flavors that make your head spin.  If you know someone coming from Paris, make sure to put in an order!
2.  Louboutins - do I even have to explain? Quite simply the perfect shoe - the fact that most of them don't fit me doesn't even matter.  They're not for comfort, they're for fashion, and in that sense French in every sense: expertly made, chic enough to catch your eye without being eye-catching, always in style, and appropriate with nearly every ensemble.

3.  The Eiffel Tower - when it twinkles of course, somehow nothing says Paris more...It's a tear jerker for me every time.

4. Champagne - despite our occassional paramourous dalliance with prosecco and sekt when serving the masses at our casa, everyone knows France's greatest contribution to libations is Champagne.  Brother Perignon liked to drink stars and so do I, preferably from the production of Louis Roederer...and preferably in pink.

5.  French Naval Officers - though in the end I was wooed to the altar by a US Naval Officer, the French equivalent will always have a place in my heart after a summer of my youth devoted to a group of gentlemen that rolled into my care while working at the French Consulate in New Orleans.  Sporting navy whites and rays of sunshine from Martinique, it appeared their naval duties consisted of mostly cocktail parties and wind surfing.  But long after the uniforms were put away and the tans faded, some have remained good friends to this day, years later, and I'll always recall them in the context of long evenings spent dancing to brass bands in French Quarter bars.

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