Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: Year in Review...



It's that time of year again! A year goes by so fast, even more so now that there is a babe in our casa - diplo-baby's first year flew by with every month bringing a new set of developments and discoveries.  Combined with our move, it really did become life on fast forward.  Because of diplo-baby, it many ways it was the best year of our lives, and because of the move and all these life changes, in many ways it was also the hardest.  So here's a look at where the time did actually go - and here is to even more adventure and learning, and hitting a steady state in 2012!

January:
Unlike last year's balls and gowns, we rang in 2011 with a dinner party for 8 at our home, giving me some confidence that my new mom self and my old social self might be able to co-exist. With people waltzing in the streets, and the infamous Gluckschweins, and possibly the best fireworks display I have ever seen - and from my living room atrium to boot, I'm convinced that Vienna is the best play for a New Year's ever. My new mom self also celebrates Diplo-Baby's first month milestone with a visit with my in-laws and a celebratory glass of wine to aknowledge that we making it a-okay! Later in the month, we make our first day trip to Neusiedlersee in the arctic cold, and our "family trip" to Schloss Velden on Worthersee, experiencing fantastic service and more reassurance that life to come will be good.



 February: 
A quick day trip to Maria Zell brings a burst of mountain air to February.  Enjoying the days of maternity leave at home, Diplo-Baby is my constant companion as we spend our winter days checking out Vienna's museums and cafes.  DB becomes a great lover of the arts and rewards me for these cultural enrichment experiences by insiting on performing a minimum of one massive pooplosion at each exhibit, forcing me to quickly become adept at spotting passable public bathrooms and reminding me I should never leave the house with out a plastic bag, a change of clothes for her, and an extra shirt for me. We also hired the woman who would later become our full time nanny and move back with us, which gave us evenings off for the first time.  We take in more of Vienna's arts scene seeing Erwin SchrottCirque du Soleil, Gustavo Dudamel and the ballet of Don Quixote.  We close out the month with a winter trip to our beloved Berthesgaden and Salzburg, for some snowy mountain respite.




March: 
I start out the month by getting a much needed haircut which sets me up for some spring highlights.  We say goodbye to winter with a smile and a return trip to Bad Gastein, when my parents are visiting for their annual ski trip and DB's 3 month birthday.  After the first few days at the peculiar "we are part of the Moscow friendship society" Hotel Elisabethpark, I spend the following week with my parents at the ever friendly Haus Hirt which even, in non-typical Austrian fashion, recognizes us as repeat customers! WOW! I brave a few days on the slopes post-surgery, but also enjoy long walks in the mountains with my mom and diplo-baby and the off-roading strollers on property.  We wrap up March with our third annual trip to the Venice Carnival, this time as a trio - well as quad since my sister in law flew in for the fun.  We hit up our regular haunts as well as discovered some new ones, and as previously, use this trip to kick off our unofficial start of the aperol spritz season, and I enjoy my last weeks of maternity leave.



April:
Back to the salt mines, and I start out by finding out I was promoted - and the blog turns one year old! I return to the daily grind with a lot of sadness that my days of lolling around Vienna with diplo-baby have come to a close, but as I was working from home, she was still close by.  Springtime comes to Vienna quickly, and we enjoy the joys of berlauch for the first time, even learning how to make pesto from it from our Austrian friends.  For the Easter holiday, we head to Krakow and Kielce to visit my extended family, proving once again that when you're in Poland, there is no such thing as too much kielbasa.  DB expands her list of acceptable pooplosion locations to include the homes of unsuspecting family and friends. Note: we start bringing two outfit changes to social outings.  Diplo-husband surprises me with a trip to Budapest, at the Four Seasons no less to celebrate the return to work, and we hold on to DB tightly at the Budapest Zoo where small children seem to be approaching hippos with popcorn with nothign but a few twigs separating them.  I bring out my favorite millinery for the Royal Wedding.





May:
With the return to work also came the return of traveling for work, and I realize I haven't been on a plane since October of the previous year, probably the longest I have gone without air travel since high school.  I immediately seem to get into a scuffle at the Heathrow Airport about expressed milk, which leads to the Crying Over Spilt Milk series posts, which then go viral .  With the exception of a few less nice comments (and everyone is entitled to their opinion), I am overwhelmed by the support and realize I'm not the only working mom who struggles between balancing what she thinks is best and the real world constraints of all that we try to do.  It's our last month in Austria, so we make our final bucket lists. We are given a glimpse into authentic countryside life with our Cowboys of Lower Austria weekend, and take one very final trip to Salzburg and Berchtesgaden, leaving in tears.



June:
With our departure looming, we go out with a bang, hosting a party for our Austrian friends at a local heuringer full of schnitzel and strudel, and with a Champagne Campaign tour of the Ring Hotel Bars with American friends.  We see a final ballet at the Opera House and have that final last of Sachertorte at the Hotel Sacher.  They come get our things, and we listen to Sound of Music in the background, while I try not to completely burst into tears as we close the door to our apartment for the last time and catch our early morning taxi to the airport, with Stefansdom becoming smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.  Welcomed by family and friends excited for our return, we throw ourselves into Exotic America upon arrival, starting with a trip to New York City, the Statue of Liberty, eating Brooklyn's best pizza (in Hoboken), and making an ill-fated attempt at a blueberry festival.  We also rejoin the modern era and get iphones.



July:
Celebrated 4 years of marriage! Still crazy after all these years!  We head out for a combined work trip and vacation to California to San Francisco and Big Sur, taking in the gorgeous scenery, great food and the freezing breezes.  Note to self: pack more warm clothes for trips to California, We finally end our in between living and move into our DC apartment, which we left three years prior as a newly married duo and now return as a trio plus nanny.  Speaking of which, diplo-nanny arrived at the end of the month! Double hurrah!



August:
The blog reaches 100,000 views, and we were only at 10,000 in January! A quick weekend jaunt to Palm Beach to celebrate the bacholerette party of a dear friends starts out the month, and I leave just before pending hurricane winds descend on the coast.  We keep discovering all the changes in Exotic America - like food truck festivals.  And I rediscover how much I love the Kennedy Center with performances of Uncle Vanya and Wicked which helps with the Staatsoper withdrawal.  We quickly fall into a Sunday routine at Cafe Leopold where we drown our homesickness for Vienna into Meinl cups of melange, but we're bouyed by the visit of our first set of Austrian friends who come into town to be godparents to Diplo-baby.  We try to show them the best that DC has to offer, and we throw a huge party to officially celebrate returning to Washington. Finally, I was very flattered to be featured as one of the Top 25 Expat Mom blogs at Circle of Moms, hurrah! complete with interview!



September:
As the fall sets in, we fall into work schedules which bring a whole new level of "grind" to our daily.  Somehow it becomes predicable for schedules to be unpredictable and we have to cancel a few planned breaks.  Still, we try to keep working through our list of fall activities to get a feel for autum on the Eastern Seaboard.   Circle of Moms features an interview. September also marks the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which given my background in international relations and DH's current work in diplomacy really has defined any educational or professional direction we've taken in our young adult lives. 


October:
Work schedules are becoming crazy prompting me to actually record some of the nutty lingo I hear all day into an official lexicon.  But more importantly, I take a much needed weekend for something I've always wanted to do and take a photography workshop with Me Ra Koh.  It's amazing. I met a fantastic group of women I'm still in touch with, and I finally crack shooting entirely in manual.  Now all that's left is practice! Work travel takes me back to London, and also to Brussels for the first time...We also celebrate diplo-baby's first halloween with a kiddie parade and an exotic america hamburger costume.



November:
Wa wa wee wah, we start out the month by winning a trip to Mexico! I never win anything! Definitely put that on the "things to look forward to in 2012" list. We head out to the Eastern Shore to St Michael's for a day trip, taking in the brisk fall breeze and the fantastically colored leaves which hang on through the beginning of the month.  Over Thanskgiving, we take a much needed vacation - no work this time, and we're back in California, where in the cold desert nights in Palm Springs we realize again we need to pack warmer clothes for trips to California.  We enjoy sunshine and retro in Palm Springs, having a great time at the Parker, and then finish off the month with Thanksgiving with my family in San Diego, where DB meets her cousins for the first time, and we celebrate with my brother before his deployment to the air craft carrier. We did exotic america things like visit Sea World.  Also, at a grocery store sale I see an amazing price on a bottle of Stag's Leap which I enjoy with my father.  Yes, it really is that good.  November seems to have brought upon illness in our house - I get food poisoning from oysters, DB gets a cold, I get a cold, I get pneumonia, then DH gets a cold and then DB again for good measure. 




December:
Diplo-baby celebrates her first birthday! Between all the work and travel and illness in November, we didn't get organized for a party, but I took the day off from work just to enjoy time with her and to reflect how much has changed in the past year.  Inspired by other bloggers, we make our own 12 Dates of Christmas list to prepare for the quickly approaching holidays, and even throw in a couple of extra things - like a visit to Hillwood Estates for their Russian Christmas Festival.  The Christmas theme this year at our house is Red and White as a tribute to all of our great experiences earlier in the year in Austria, and even though Christmas itself will be with DH's family in New Jersey, we still put up a little tree.  We start Christmas early for diplo-baby by sending her to spend some time with her grand-parents which lets DH and I take some time to enjoy Christmas evenings in the city with a performance of the Nutcracker, dinner just the two of us, and just a "great Tuesday night". 



All photos by The New Diplomat's Wife, except invitation photo by Kate Triano, and picture of me and Me Ra Koh by Brian Tausend.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Anatomy of a Great Birthday...


A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my diplo-birthday, another year older...and hopefully at least just a little bit wiser.  Dipo-husband was still under the weather after a nasty set of bugs that we seemed to take turns with after returning from Thanksgiving, so we had to pare pack and skip a few things like dinner but still rallied to make the day a memorable one! Here's how a great birthday day broke out!

Step 1: Let birthday wife sleep in while you tend to morning baby routines - once everyone is up, all have breakfast together...Even if it's just  Cheerios.  And especially if it's a yellow Cheerios box, with an orange box and brown ribbon behind it.  Thank you, diplo-husband!


Step 2: Watch baby while birthday wife steps out for a mani-pedi while reading her favorite magazine.  We just had a new cheapie nail place open up on P street and it turned out great.  Also, as the owner of 10 very weak and always breaking nails, I finally discovered the shellac manicure.  Genius.  It's two weeks later and not one chip...not one broken nail.


Step 3: Easy, breezy lunch at home from Homemade Pizza Company - our favorite is the Miesian with the Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut salad, a winner every time.  Spend the afternoon playing with diplo-baby instead of having to do dishes!

Step 4: JERSEY BOYS! Waaaaaaaah! Now...you might recall from my New Year's Resolutions for this year, that I really wanted a sock hop for my birthday.  Alas, no sock hop to be had, but watching the Jersey Boys show at the National Theater was a close second - I love oldies...I love Frankie Valli...DH didn't even complain when I was humming "Sherrie, Baby" the rest of the night.


Step 5: Champagne Cocktail night cap at the Hay-Adams - Off the Record Bar is definitely one of my favorites in DC.  I wanted to investigate the decorations for my Christmas list - while the decorations weren't nearly as over the top as when the Austrian GM was at the property, it's still beautiful place and the bar atmosphere was as impeccable as I always remembered it.


Cin, cin to 33!


Photo sources: EarthSky, Homemade Pizza Company, All Lacquered Up and the New Diplomats Wife via Camera +.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thank you, Santa!

Looks like I wasn't too bad of a girl this year - made out pretty well with Santa's surprises under the tree! Here's a bit of what came around on Christmas Eve - hope you found special things under your tree too!
Thank you, Santa!




1.  A Fuji Instax Camera - a super-fun gift that I've been wanting for a while - sometimes there is just nothing like being able to hand someone a hard copy picture.  While normally I take digital photos, of which you can fire off hundreds at a time to get the "right" image, I think this makes you stop and think before you click.

2. A lovely, gauzy light leopard print scarf - in fact, I'm wearing it today.  This will be perfect for jazzing up neutrals and will look great with any of my gold toned chunky necklaces that can hang below for a layered effect.

3. Proper pyjamas - finally! The ones I actually got were from Brook Brothers.  I've never really paid much attention to pyjamas before but I'm pretty sure I will never go back now.  If you're a fan of crisp hotel sheets, just iron up a pair of any of suiting cotton or broadcloth cotton pyjamas for BB and you'll basically be in a hotel envelope all night long.  Bonus, BB can monogram them for you.

4. My mother in law is infamous for saying "just throw a little cashmere over your shoulders"...and she's right, and so is my own mother who told me early on that there is nothing like it.  This year a cream turtleneck had my name on it from one Santa, while a black shawl collar sweater had my name on it from another.  I'm now officially prepared for winter nights!

5.  Fresh shower gel and lotion - I read in some rag magazine that Halle Berry that insists on this smell in her shower every morning.  No idea if that's true and I rarely pay much attention to celebrity product endorsements, but I saw it in a store once and smelled it and it's true, that lemon smell really is all that.  It's expensive so I rarely buy it for myself but I do love love love it.  There is just something about that smell that makes the start of the day better.  I'm waiting until New Year's to crack open these bottles.  As a bonus, I also received the lotion (as well as a ginormous container of the Bliss lemon+sage scented lotion as well - tied for my other favorite!).  I hardly wear perfume because it gives me headaches but a little touch of lemon is enough to keep the spring in my step all day.

6.  A silver serving platter that keeps food hot or cold - much like an earlier lesson in life from mother + mother in law + grandmother about not being able to have too many bowls, you can also not have too many platters.   Diplo-husband once tried to decry a moratorium on platter purchases foolishly, and then realized at our next party that we didn't have enough.  And right now, we hardly have any since most of our kitchen things are packed up in storage, so this has been put to immediate good use.

Thank you, Santa! by thenewdiplomatswife

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Red and White Christmas by iPhone...



With diplo-baby on hiatus, I was finally able to get to present wrapping.  When you live in a smaller apartment, the thing about wrapped presents and a one year old is that your one year old will help you UNwrap them... So I waited this year until she was off -DH and I grabbed a sushi dinner and then I got right to it.

Red and white this year for our theme - even for our little tree - red and white all the way.  Partially this is because we like the colors, partially becuase we miss Austria, and partially because I am a notorious procrastinator when it comes to taking stuff down so this will still look great on Valentine's Day...

So here are a few shots of our tree, and the infamous presents....here's to everyone finding goodies under their own trees this year!












All photos by The New Diplomat's Wife via Instagram on iPhone.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Anatomy of a great Tuesday night...


Yesterday we packed of diplo-baby and the nanny for an earlier departure chez the grand-parents, where we'll head up ourselves on Friday.  I'm not going to lie, it's tough not having her around.  So why did we do it?

Well...first of all, we both have to work until the end of the week.  Those last hours with DB at the end of the day are so important to me...but having a few extra days would be even more important to the grandparents, who don't see her nearly as much as they would like to.  Second, it's important for DB herself to learn to be in different environments - I'm convinced that it will make her independent in the long run so it's healthy to havea  little separation.  It's just three nights.  And finally, it gave the diplo-husband and I a bit of time back before, almost to life before diapers and bedtimes...Almost a bit like a staycation, but with a different flair.

So after we dropped them off at the train station, and after I got done saying good bye 42 times and after the red cap basically physically removed me from the train, and after I got done whimpering about I surprised DH...here's how it went.

Step 1: Safely place child and nanny on train to grandparents (if this isn't possible for you, this works just as well if you just get a babysitter for the evening).

Step 2: Surpise husband - we went for the Bliss Spa at the W Hotel since basically, it's one of the only spas that's open late - until 9pm to be precise.  We headed over after the station (and after a quick snack), enjoyed some eucalyptus steam showers before individual massages.

Step 3: Enjoy a later dinner and bubbly - preferably something classic.  We just ended heading upstairs to the rooftop bar (formerly the Hotel Washington) and watch the combination of flights landing at National, the White House rooftop, and assorted kooky hotel guests.

Step 4: Enjoy the quietness of coming home - we changed and for the first time in a long time, I got to read before going to bed. 

Step 5: Sleep 9 hours.  It doesn't get any better than that - I felt like a new person today.

So now we just have to figure out how we're going to make Wednesday and Thursday nights great too...good start so far though.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Diplo-style: The Artist and The Artess



Why can I not find this movie anywhere in DC??? I first took note of this when it blasted on to the stage in Cannes, and then again during my trip to London this October.  In fact, I even clipped a magazine page about it for my "to do" file.  Now, everyone is talking about it as it's a leading contender for Best Picture.  I actually found myself with a potential night off tomorrow and I thought I would go but nooooooo, it's nowhere in DC! Curses!

From what I've read, The Artist is a modern silent movie that address a once famous actor who meets his fall with the rise of talkies (Norma Desmond anyone?  Hopefully this guy doesn't end up a butler).  In the meantime, his muse/friend/lover/protege type gal meets her rise with the new medium.  The Artist definitely promises to be tragic, and a stylish dose of life in black and white.

It's funny, I say stylish because that is what black and white is to me - classic, elegant, it smacks of tuxedos and newsprint.  For diplo-husband, black and white couldn't be further from the opposite - for him, black and white means depression-era, poverty, and not having the option to live in color.  Different perspectives, right?

In any case, I'm definitely looking forward to when the movie does make it here - it will be top of my list.  The screen shots are already promising a two-tone visual feast - ready for a close-up anyone?