Monday, December 31, 2012

Up, up, and away!

My cheers to all of you and yours for a wonderful closing out of 2012! As I take a moment to reflect on all of the great gifts that have come our way this year, I can't help but think of this blog as one of them. It's been a wonderful year and I'm very grateful to all of you who take the time to read along on all of our little adventures!

Before we ring in 2013, a little toast to the year past and all it's brought us.  Here is to new adventures ahead!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent in Salzburg...

Advent in Salzburg from Bob Krist on Vimeo.

And this is exactly why we miss Austria the most around the holidays...
PS - don't be scared of the Krampus revelers at the end - they're meant to ward off any evil spirits so that you can enjoy Christmas to the fullest!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Diplomatic Notes: Edition n.01

"Khadi (traditional handwoven) scarves, notebooks made out of elephant poop and bangles--lots and lots of bangles. Oh, and boutique Indian-style baby clothes. Because there's nothing cuter than embroidered elephants on soft cotton for the little ones." 
Dani, New Delhi, India, HotPotDC
"Handwoven silk wall hangings with hand-carved wooden hangars. They are just so beautiful and intricate." 
Dee, Vientiane, Laos, DWharlow  
"it will be food gifts this year: powder from the hottest chiles in the world, mustard oil, traditional sweets, dosa and vada mixes, and saffron honey."
Stephanie, Hyderabad, India, Where in the World is Stephanie  
"Dead Sea soap and Jordanian silver. (But now I want some mustard oil, Stephanie!)."
 Donna, Amman, Jordan, Email from the Embassy 
"I did knit several things here to send home this year. Does that count? That and finds from Vienna's pretty awesome thrift stores"
Kelly, Vienna, Austria, Well that was Different 
"Matroshka dolls, honey and chocolate (somehow nobody knows how amazing chocolate and honey are in Russia!)"
Lynne, St.Petersburg, Russia, Like Nomads 
"Ethiopian gabis (blanket/shawls) and hand woven baskets. Lots and lots of Ethiopian coffee beans!"
Sara, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Our Yuppie Life 
"The handicrafts and locally produced items in Korea are so expensive that we couldn't find many gifts to send home...but we did send some Korean snacks and teas though!  
Lauren, Seoul, Korea, Adventures In ... 
"Buffalo horn jewelry, handmade lanterns & silk scarves/ties."  
Nicole, Ha Noi, Vietnam, Delicious Diplomacy 
"A keffiyeh scarf or a Hand of Fatima necklace."
Michele, Amman, Jordan, GlobeHoppers 
"Pearls for the ladies. The guys aren't actually getting anything from the Philippines!"
Sara, Manila, Philippines, WifeMommyWoman 
"Ceramics, Perugina cocoa, artisinal pasta, and Thun holiday ornaments."
Zoe, Milan,  Something Edited
"Hand crafted silver kitchen pieces (spoon rest, trivets, bowls) and tile-framed mirrors. All incredibly priced!" 
Narra, Guadalajara, Mexico, FiveGs
"Hand knit mittens (only thing warm enough for an Estonian winter!), wooden tableware, and hand painted pottery."
Rachel, Tallinn, Estonia, Multitasking
"Mexican vanilla, blow up luchador punching bags, and piƱatas."
Sarah, Nogales, Mexico, By the Where 
"Thai silk and teak woodcarvings of warriors on elephants and traditional Thai dancers." 
Heather, Bangkok,Thailand, Field of Heather  
"Icelandic eye cream or fish-skin purses."
Erica, Reykjavik, Iceland, Erica J Green 
Amy, Moscow, Russia, The Crafty Foreign Service
"Pearl necklaces and earrings.  And dried mango. Both are light and easy to mail!" 
Caroline,  Manila , Philippines,  Wright Outta Nowhere

Let's close out the year with one more new series - I introduce for you The Diplomatic Notes, which I hope will be a monthly series of answers to curious questions from other diplomat bloggers about living in the many different corners of the world.  First up, the holiday season and all the gifts it brings! With so many global stores available in so many locations, it's easy to forget that there are still really unique things out there that are special to the many places we live. 

From readers, I'd love to hear what are the things you've been giving this season that are unique to your hometown or country!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 12 Dates of Christmas: 2012 Edition

It seems like this year we're whizzing ahead full speed towards the holidays and I can barely catch a moment to stop and actually prepare for everything that should go along with a proper Christmas celebration.  That's why the 12 Dates of Christmas list helps keep me in check - I might not get all of the things done per se, but having a list helps me to slow down a bit to enjoy all the things on the way, even if it's the little things...Here's how our list this year is panning out! Don't forget to check out the 2012 list for more ideas!

Original image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 - own / 11 / 12

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cultural Attache: The Nutcracker...

One of my all-time favorite things to do on the holidays is to see the Nutcracker, hands down. It's usually the first piece of holiday music that we listen to after thanksgiving, as its such a nice way to ease into the holiday spirit.  Since last year we saw the unique Washington version (if you live in DC and haven't seen it, do it  - you won't forget the Anacostia Indians pas de deux - no one will hold a flame to that piece), we opted to go the more traditional route this year and see the production put on by BalletWest at the Kennedy Center.

I've been wanting to see BalletWest for some time, and even more so when I saw the photos of dancers that decorated the SLC airport.  I have to say that to really appreciate them I probably should have held out just a bit longer, but nonetheless, what the piece lacked in interesting footwork and jazz, it made up for in beautiful costumes and sets and a truly lovely holiday story, which in the end are my favorite things about the Nutcracker anyway....sparkles...tutus...finding warmth during the winter holidays...and that magical feeling but being lifted into a dream.

Below are a few pieces of winter magic inspired by the performance...

1// Feather Skirt 2// Earmuffs 3// Cozy Scarf 4// Blush Silk Shirt 5// Diamond Solitaire Studs
6// Jeweled Flats

Monday, December 17, 2012

Diplo-Picks: A Minted Calendar...

If you know any Eastern Europeans - like myself - chances are you own a multitude of calendars.  We love to give out calendars, especially around the holidays and end of year.  I think I usually get at least three each year, and I use them all for different reasons.  With us,  a calendar is never an inappropriate gift.

It's hard to believe that we're almost in 2013 already... But if you're anything like me then the family calendar is pretty much the key to staying on top of about anything.  It's already time to plan our January vacation, and my February work travel, and all the things we need to get done between now and departure this summer.  So while I might not feel like 2013 is quite here yet, I at least need 2013 on paper.

Minted contacted me about getting a jumpstart on making a calendar, and I thought this was a great opportunity to create something that was meaningful throughout the year.  These calendars would be a beautiful fit for family photos, but with my inspiration list about a mile long already for next year, I wanted to use images that really motivated me.  Last year, we took a trip to Mexico that was gorgeous in every way and I left inspired at every destination, so a collection of images from that trip was perfect for the calendar. I used the Cutout Grand Calendar, which is maybe a bit more modern than my everyday style, since I'm hoping that the image of the circle will remind me to focus in on that feeling from the trip as we get into the day to day of the year.

Tip: collect all your important dates in the year - birthdays, holidays, key milestones, since you can have them printed right in the calendar.


Here are a few more picks from Minted's Calendars - I could definitely make at least three more of these. I guess that's the Eastern European in me. And if calendars aren't your thing, check out their full set of photo gifts here.

This post was sponsored by Minted.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Photography Friday: Starns' Snowflakes...

We've been spoiled most of this week with weather in the 50's and even 60's but they said on the radio this morning that's coming to a quick close.  Not sure if it means snow quite yet for us, but I can't stop staring at the details of these snowflake photos.  Even more interestingly, the photography duo of Doug and Mike Starns, who also happen to be identical twins, intentionally take photos of the snowflakes with all of their imperfections.  Many of them are done just at the point when melting starts so some of the snowflake portions or symmetries are actually missing if you look closely.  A nice reminder perhaps that the natural state of things is one of imperfection, but that doesn't mean that's not beautiful in and of itself.

All photographs by Mike and Doug Starns and available as limited editions on 20x200.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Celebrating Two....

Somehow two years gave come and gone seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Happy birthday to my one and only diplo-tot - here's to the next adventure that comes our way!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Trip Report n.4: London

I could probably have bored you with about 20 trip reports from London this year - if I haven't already. So since I seem to be on tap to go back with some frequency, I'll save these for when I get to do something new or cool.  Like go to the British night...with the Egyptian Room all lit up in blue, a jazz band playing in the background and jumbo glass servings of white wine...

Despite the fact that this is right around the corner from my office, I'm embarassed to admit I've never made it to the British Museum before.  I knew it wasn't far, but until I walked over, I realized just how "not far" it was.  Shame on me.  But at least now I know.  The Egyptian Room was the only one open for the event that evening but it was already more than enough.  Especially since I finally got to see the famed Rosetta stone - much bigger than I had imagined.  Also, for some reason, I always thought it had four sides that you had to rotate, almost like those coding tools from WWII.  Still absolutely worth seeing though.  And speaking of codes, this whole room is hieroglyphs galore - made me feel that my penmanship was getting a bit sloppy.  Second best is the amazing atrium ceiling who's architecture I've admired previously on instagram feeds - now I finally got to have my own.

I half expected Ben Stiller to pop out at some point, and for the Egyptian mummies to start moving around but no dice - maybe those kind of night time shenanigans are exclusively reserved for the natural history museums...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Diplo-Picks: Holiday Cards with Pinhole Press...

I love holiday cards - I love that this is still the one time of year where people take the time to do a paper mailing.  I love seeing what people have been up to, where they've been, and now, more commonly, how their children have grown.  And I love when people take the time to handwrite a note, even if just a short one, on the inside of a card, it just makes the card all that more real.  But as much as I love Christmas cards, I always seem to be about a half step, if not a full step behind on getting it together myself.  After a bit of practice, New Year's cards seem to be the way to go for us.  A little more time to organize, but also a little more time to get all those notes in.

Because I'm such a nut about paper, I was pretty excited when Pinhole Press contacted me about their new line for this year, which is on ultra-think paper, layered white then red then white.  Like a candy cane!  I mean, I would send out cards on full on cardboard if I could, and this is the next best thing. And the good news is that if you straggle a bit like me, then there are tons of designs that are suitable for new year's cards - perfect for ordering a batch, pouring a nice spiced cider, and getting the mailing together on those slower holiday days.

Below are a few of my favorite picks for this year - and you have until December 15th to order for guaranteed delivery before the holidays!

Clockwise from top left: 1/ Jumbo Portrait 2/ Noel Card 3/ Joy Accordion 4/ Six Squares 

This post was sponsored by Pinhole Press.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Photography Friday: Georges Dambier...

While enjoying the December issue of Matchbook over a very hot coffee to try to warm up in a very cold London yesterday, I couldn't help but note down Anthony Barzilay Freund's picks for "investment art".  I mean, how often do you get someone's perspective on that? It's not like there is a Kiplinger's article on it.  Granted, art should be bought for enjoyment, but still, I found his perspective fascinating.  And I happened to learn about three new artists I hadn't yet heard of.

One of these is Georges Dambier, a fashion photographer who made his name primarily at Elle and was one of the first to take fashion photography out of the studios and onto the streets in Paris.  Classic framing, tailored cuts, chic hats and ladylike gloves abound, I'd say it was the height of diplo-chic.

And if you like this style of photography, don't forget to check out the post on Lillian Bassman!

All photographs by Georges Dambier.
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