Thursday, February 28, 2013

London Living...

When I'm in London, I always pick up an issue of Living Etc on my way home - actually, I pick up all kinds of magazines but I've been reading Living Etc. ever since I've had to wait for the imported version for which I paid an exorbitant price for at the Georgetown Barnes and Noble.  Now I just pay an exorbitant price in pounds at the airport magazine rack.  Well...exhorbitant to me because of exchange rate.  As far as I can tell, Londoners and I have somewhat of a different opinion on what qualifies as exorbitant.

But in any case, I thought I would share one of their recent home features.  Lately I was feeling a bit that I had 'outgrown' Living Etc - the mix of hi/lo; global/local self decorating wasn't as new to me anymore, and often I was finding the images a little too busy.  I'm not so much sure it was them, it was probably mostly me.  But nonetheless I still buy it on my trips and while I might not necessarily choose everything for myself, I always end up inspired by what people are doing with their homes in the UK that pushes the envelope.

This is a Victorian apartment from London and it's pretty amazing what they do with pattern and color in a very non-traditional way.  And that bathtub is something else - I think I could enjoy a cup of tea or two in there for sure.

All photographs by Jack Fitzjones for Living Etc.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Diplo-picks: Culture Baby!

Okay, so I think I might got a bit fan girl on you but I honestly can't remember I was so inspired by baby goods, across the board.  Yesterday, Natalia graciously shared all about her life in Morocco with us in Notes from the Field, and so today, I wanted to share with you some of my favorite pics from her shop, Culture Baby.

1. I mentioned this dress in my Happy Monday links last week but I keep going back to it, especially since I'm in London this week.  When diplo-tot finally makes it with me one of these trips, this is definitely going into the suitcase.  Now, if only there were a matching piece for me...

2. US President's Building Blocks: A cool twist on an old favorite and as we get ready for our next move away from the US, this would be a fantastic way to to bring in some Presidential history while we're abroad.  A must have for any tot, especially far away from home.

3.  A peace nursery garland - there's something about the texture here that just makes me want to reach out and touch it through the screen.  Also, peace doves, isn't that what diplomacy is all about in the end?

4. Kimono pyjamas - Again something I wish would come in my size.  I've been sad that as we approach the start of potty training, I was thinking we would have to say good-bye to diplo-tots beloved "footie" pyjamas to make the on/off thing just as easy as we can for the nighttime routine.  But a beautiful pair of these I think would be great way to start with something new, exiting (and pink! we're definitely having a pink phase chez nous), while not losing any of that girly cuteness.

5. Lambskin slippers - And for a third time, wish it came in my size.  They look just perfectly cozy for winters in Denmark!

The Culture Baby shop focuses on a small, curated set of goods from each major region of the world and as a final note, Natalia wanted to hear if any any readers had products form their home countries that fit in line with the Culture Baby aesthetic.  In Natalia's words, "We've always counted on internationally placed women and families who have a good design eye to tell us what items are reflecting culture with a modern twist.".  Got ideas? Natalia is listening! Reach out to Culture Baby at

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Notes from the Field: Rabat!

Very excited to share with you today our very first Notes from the Field of 2013 - Natalia, co-founder of the uber-chic children's online boutique, Culture Baby, is our woman on the ground in Rabat and generally loving it.  On the lookout for adventure and a good tagine, read on to see a little slice of daily life in Morocco!


Diplo-mat or Diplo-spouse (or other)?
Pseudo-diplo-spouse.  My husband is a Foreign Area Officer with the US Marine Corps.

Current Post: Rabat, Morocco.  We were originally slated for Tunis but were there 3 weeks before an evacuation was ordered on September 14th after the attack on the embassy.  

Three words to describe your current post: 
Messy, Exhilarating, Pleasant.

Best thing about Rabat: 
The food (tagines, spices, sweet cakes and biscuits); the shopping (handmade furnishings, decorative items); the opportunities for travel (both within and without the country); and the affordable help...I’ve never had a housekeeper before and I love her!

You have visitors in town for the weekend in Rabat, what does the weekend look like? 
We head to the Place des Consuls in the morning, the gateway to the local medina and shop for tchochkes, rugs or tea sets.  Then across the road to the walled Oudayas and Kasbah, the old fortress overlooking the harbor for a walk that concludes with a hot mint tea on the balcony, accompanied by almond cakes.  Then a quick walk around the roman ruins of the Chellah followed by a lunch of lamb tagine with aubergines or prunes.  
In the afternoon, we head back to our place by the sea for a relax and in the evening, we walk down to the Cafe Miramar and watch the waves crash with a Moroccan Rosé and some seafood.  Sunday we do brunch at French cafe Paul and we hit the mausoleum of the previous king and the famous Tour Hassan, minaret of a never completed mosque.  We might pop over to Salé, a town across the river if shopping for pottery or mosaic tabletops is of interest.  Dinner in the shaded and flowered courtyard of my favorite hotel, the Villa Mandarin.
If you’re in Rabat, you must try: 
·         P'tet Beur: our favorite restaurant for traditional Moroccan cuisine - everything from the soup to the sweets!
·         Ordering custom furniture or rugs...exactly the way you want them
·         Traveling on Morocco's surprisingly modern many out of the way destinations will open up to you
·         And...if you aren't squeamish or shy, a Hammam spa treatment involving steam and an enthusiastic scrubbing down of your whole body with a rough, exfoliating mitt by a generally buxom practitioner

Most difficult about living in Rabat is the... Traffic...the pliable relationship drivers seems to have with turn lanes, right of way or speed limits.  Add donkey carts and you have a real white knuckler every morning.  I hear Casablanca is worse and I don’t dare imagine.

Biggest adventure at post? I don’t think we’ve had it yet!  Always on the look out though!

When did you realize you were far from home? Watching a Moroccan family celebrate the traditional Eid al Adha festivites by slaughtering a ram in the kitchen courtyard.  I just tried to imagine my Dad doing the turkey the same way at Thanksgiving and couldn’t quite picture it!

What’s the most important thing about re-creating your home at post? Having our own pictures and books.  I know they are some of the heaviest or most breakable items but I just don’t feel like I can personalize our space without them.  

Three things you can’t live without at post? 
·         My teapot and teabags (must have my morning tea, British tetley or PG tips if I can manage it)
·         My mac book pro and a reliable internet connection.  I run an e-commerce business so I need to be connected at all times!
·         A reliable babysitter...some of the best discoveries are for two!

One thing you thought you couldn’t live without but have had to?  
Organic product.  I was always so careful about shopping organic.  But here it really isn't an option.  Shopping at veggie souks means you can see your produce came from small farms but they don't really give you any information about how their meats or vegetables are raised.

What’s your daily uniform? 
Merrill or other casual flats, skinny jeans, button down shirt, and a long necklace or scarf with my hair in a banana clip.

You’re having guests over on Saturday night, what’s on the menu?  If it’s casual a spanish stew with a side salad and a fresh baguette.  If it’s formal I’ll do a beef wellington...a beef tenderloin topped with shallots and mushrooms and wrapped in a puff pastry.  Its actually fairly easy if a little time consuming.  And always copious amounts of wine!

Three things always in your refrigerator? 
·         Fresh fruit. I have to make an effort to eat it first thing in the morning or I forget altogether.
·         A bit of dark chocolate for cravings.  (I put everything sweet in the fridge at the moment since I am in all out war with the Moroccan brigade of ants who like to invade my kitchen).
·         A White wine.

Three things always in your handbag?
·         Baby sunblock for me and the baby.
·         Baby wipes....handy with or without the baby.
·         My Kate Spade sunglasses.  Because I have a love for them that borders on the obsessive.  Plus the sun here is intensive.  Plus I sometimes forget my mascara. Plus they are good for hiding my people watching that turns into staring.  You get the picture...don’t leave the house without them!


Dream post for next assignment? Why?  We are likely headed to DC next which we are pleased about.  We love the city and it feels like the closest thing we have to a home.  We would love to live in Japan again.  We did 2.5 years in Okinawa and loved it.  If my husband’s career takes us to the Middle East or North Africa again as it promises to, we’ve heard wonderful things about Muscat in Oman.

One thing you wished someone had told you before arriving?  That the embassy provided converters...I brought no appliances.  And that I would be using my French more than I have in years and the Arabic phrases I studied not at all.  Moroccans don’t actually speak Arabic, they speak Darija, a local dialect.  

Parting thoughts? One of the biggest challenges here at post has been in continuing to run my own small business.  I had to check the bureaucratic boxes with the Embassy and clear my business operations with the HR department.  But it was also difficult to be working outside of my previous support network and 5-8 hours ahead of various contacts.  I built my business to be flexible with my husband’s schedule but it has still been an adjustment.

Check out more of Natalia's adventures here!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday from London! I have been looking forward to this week for the past six weeks since this week is all about getting ready to wrap up a big work project.  After this week, looking forward to getting some sleep again, workouts in, an actual full weekend at home, and maybe even a little detox (or milkshake - we'll see how the mood strikes).
In the meantime, lots of fun links to kick off your Monday!
  • So what belongs in a wedding ad anyway? This photographer thinks it’s only love
  • So proud of my high school alma mater and their debate team – yes, I was once a debater too!
  • Excited to find a new city guide for our new post!
  • A troll forest? Add to the to-see list for Denmark that I’ve started
  • See New York like a New Yorker:
  • I keep beauty products to a minimum but definitely picked up some good recommendations here, especially on the inner eye liner.
  • Love this little video on how to take the Paris metro
  • How beautiful to have the Louvre all to yourself…
  • Tell me your not fascinated by these scenes of Sri Lanka on Super 8mm
  • Looking forward to welcoming some Greek to our neighborhood!
  • Secret societies? We still have those? Yup – at least they do in Georgetown. 
  • Adding this confetti installation to see on an upcoming trip to NYC.
  • For all those waiting out the winter – also, this video completely reminds me of my brother
  • Cool new app for teaching foreign language to littles –  if they’re on the iphone anyway, they might as well be learning it in another language.
  • Twitter for diplomats, the book.
  • And in other exhibit of US Diplomacy gone viral, the Bangkok Embassy does the Harlem Shake! We definitely have to look into this more as a future post.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gearing up for a chef's challenge...

1//Apron  2//Measuring Cups  3//Olive Wood Tasting Spoons 4//Vodka glasses  5//Recipe journal 

I mentioned earlier on Monday about a new project that I'll be working on across the next month that I'm pretty excited to share a bit more about.  Every year, Cultural Tourism DC, a fantastic organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of Washington neighborhoods, stages an embassy chef vs embassy chef  challenge.  Kind of like the Iron Chef, except that instead of working in restaurants, these chefs spend their day to day serving up some of the world's top diplomats.

I'll be bringing you a few fun posts across the next month until the big event on March 14th, but I thought I would kick it off with my list of a few items I'm preparing.  I'm neither judge nor official taster but who knows what the opportunities will be?  An apron with a string of pearls will keep the diplo-outfit in its diplo-finest shape (and really, pearls on an apron? yes please).  A measure here, a taste there, and a bit of palate cleanser at the end.  You might think vodka glasses aren't in a tasting repertoire but when one of the competing finalists is the Embassy of the Russian Federation, I'm betting these will be put to good use.  Finally, a little notebook dedicated to the cause to keep track of all the adventures.

I hope to see you there!

This post was sponsored in collaboration with The Embassy Chef Challenge. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mooi Cool...

Slowly but surely, Copenhagen is coming closer on the horizon.  We don't know where we will be living yet but you can bet that isn't preventing me from thinking of new home ideas...

While it's not Danish but rather Dutch, I find the overall aesthetic not so different from what I've seen about Danish homes that are featured for their design.  Casper and Suzy Visser's house, recently featured in Elle Decor, has a good mix of that look we'd love to incorporate (although who knows what will be possible in the end - especially once you throw some of that standard issue Queen Anne in the mix).  It might be kind of an end of winter thing, but I find that I'm really drawn too big windows, with snowy, contemplative spaces, and cozy environments filled - but not overstuffed - with textured natural elements...let's see what we get!

All photography by Inga Powilleit for Elle Decor.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Welcome to the neighborhood...

Things on 14th street, our neighborhood are really picking up, and I feel like it's going to be a whole new 'hood by the time spring settles in.  Which, after yesterday's 35 degree day, I hope will be very very soon. 

Lots of places opening, and it's been wonderful to have such a lively street just around the corner.  One of the latest additions has been Matchbox, a pizza and generally fun eatery.  Although it's a DC chain, I first ate at one in Palm Springs of all places, and we were converts since.  The problem, however, was that the main one was in Chinatown/Penn, which is great for location, but completely crazy for crowds.  Add one toddler into the mix and it just became too much hassle.  But now that there is a new (BIG) space literally just around the corner from us, a random crazing for a pizza (wood-fired! the only kind...) is now easily answered.  And the staff? Completely friendly, even to the wee ones, bringing out pizza dough for her to play with while we waited.  Diplo-tot approved!

Welcome to the neighborhood, Matchbox!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday, everyone! I'm back, I'm back and happy to have the week at home.  The good news is that we're 50% through a particularly stressful month - the bad news? Well, when did it become half way through February already???

Anyway! Here are a few links to kick off your week:

  • Now that’s a lot of snow
  • And speaking of snow, isn’t snow in Venice the most romantic?
  • Started a countdown to the return of Mad Men, here’s how to get up to speed in a nutshell
  • Being surrounded by no noise at all? Tempting.  Putting it on my London list for next week. 
  • Discovered a new fab shop for the diplo-tot: if she ever makes it to London with me, this dress is going into our suitcase for sure.

And in other news, I'm pretty excited to let you know that I'll be collaborating with the Embassy Chef Challenge, which is coming up on a month's time.  The Challenge, which pits Embassies against each other to compete in an Iron Chef type format is a really great way to experience a whole range of global cuisines (Denmark won in 2011 - woot woot! Great news for our arrival in Copenhagen!).  But it also supports Cultural Tourism DC, a fantastic organization that preserves and promotes the heritage of DC neighborhoods.  If you've wondered what it's like to eat like a diplomat for a day this is it - I'll be bringing you a series of posts around the event and the organization and I hope you'll come along for the taste tour!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Walk in Georgetown...

I've been meaning to write up a bit more about our usual Sunday routines since they are so dear to us.  Unless we're traveling, you can find us strolling about on nearly any given Sunday in Georgetown, working through all the steps that have become like a warm welcome.  I'm flying home today but I bet you can guess where you'll see me this weekend! Maybe see you there!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sharing the love...

It's Valentine's Day - hooray! I love this holiday, I really do. And this is a day not just for remembering those closest to us but also for casting a wide net (I think anyway) for others that we admire.  I mean, who doesn't like to find out they've been noticed.

So for this Valentine's Day on the blog, I thought I would throw a little love towards some amazing bloggers who seem to be really good at loving each other.  All of these couples have great blogs full of adventures that I love to read.  But after having met them all in person across the last couple of years, they really stick out for me as being genuinely loving couples who complement each other, who take time for each other... I think when you're part of a married couple, it's important to have married couple role models...Not to put on a pedestal, because every couple has their ups and downs, but rather to have as moral support and as a reminder that of all the great gifts that being in a couple can bring if you take the time do nurture the relationship.  We look for these examples amongst our friends in all walkf of life, but here's a little love for those couples amongst the blogs! Happy Valentine's Day!

House of Brinson: Susan and William Brinson
These two would probably blanch if they saw that I put a picture of them in a heart...that's pink..with sequins all around.  They're just a bit more rock and roll than that.  But that doesn't make them any less lovey-dovey in my book.  Not only do they work together to produce some of the most beautiful still life photography I have ever seen, they're also just fun people.  They're the kind of people you know you can talk to at a party and more than just superficially.  They have  New York edge but the way they treat each other, and others, couldn't be kinder or more patient.

A Blog about Love: Danny and Mara Kofoed
I mean, their blog is about love, right? More than just love, their blog is about finding and making a conscious choice for happiness in whatever circustance life throws you, and collectively, life has thrown them plenty.  They're not bitter...they don't feel cheated...they don't keep score...They way that they actively choose to learn from experience and use that to be a better person towards others and a better spouse towards each other is so inspiring.  They're like two peas in a pod, but at the same time, they're distinctly different personalities who as just stand on their own solo as they do together.  Reading along on their blog always inspires me to be a bit more grateful and to try a little bit harder at the things I know I could do better when it comes to relationships.  Also, I think they would be okay with the pink and the sequins and the hearts...

Blue Lily Photography Blog: Wendy and Tyler Whitacre
I found these two through a love of photography, and their vivid colors from their adventures around the globe drew me in.  But I later met them in person for a workshop and subsequent events and couldn't help but admire how well they work together.  Again, complementing but not competing.  Bringing out each others strengths...and doing everything with a great big laugh.  I know that life on the road, especially with little ones, isn't alwasy easy but they take uncertainty and adventure with great stride.  When you see them all in person, that family bond will hit you like a wall.  When they wanted to get out to see the world, they didn't sit at home complaining about it, they made it happen.  And I love people who make things happen!  I have no idea how they would feel about sequins and hearts but I have a feeling that they would just roll with it...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love from the Paperman...

Paperman from thur on Vimeo.

I've got a weak spot for romantic stories, what can I say.  So while I think the concept of this story is a wee bit too familiar to the Schweppe's Tonic ad that ran a couple of years ago, it's still a sweet story and a beautiful piece of animation.  I even can't get over all the different lighting feels in something that's not only not live, but in black and white...So since it's almost Valentine's Day, come on, be a little sappy with me!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To Rome with Love...

1//Earrings 2//Clutch 3//Wedges 4//Dress 5//Map Guide 6//Duffel

It's been awhile since I've been able to snag a good, old-fashioned movie night with diplo-husband but last week we were able to steal one night away after the errands were run, the groceries put away, dinner cleared, and diplo-tot snoring soundly away.

Not knowing much about it (other than we love Italy) we teed up To Rome with Love, which was the perfect fit - light hearted and endearing in a way that the combination of Woody Allen and a strong ensemble can be.

I couldn't help but falling in love with Milly - the wide-eyed country girl who was so afraid about making the right impression in Rome with her "school teacher hair" that she runs off to find a salon and has an adventure all her own .  Maybe I just recognize something in her...Or maybe she's just gorgeous.

So in honor of this modern Milly, here is how I would reimagine her for this Valentine's Day - note for next time Milly, bring a map!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday every one – en route to South Africa today which means the day consists of flying, flying and more flying.  Perhaps I need a post on how to fill 16 hours of flight time…In any case, it’s Valentine’s week, hurrah! Ours our stamped with love and on their way in the mail, and I have a week of lovely love tee’d up for you while I’m away.  In the meantime, here are a few links to start off your week!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Photography Friday: Olivia Bee's Hermes...

Believe it or not, the Hermes catalog/magazine hybrid gets a lot of love in our house. I mean, naturally from me, but weirdly, it also gets a lot of love from our diplo-tot. But hold on - no, I'm not raising an mini Hermes tyrant... This past fall/winter issue is full of birds...horses...girls blowing bubbles..all things high in our diplo-tot's book these days. The "pony-birdie-"ba-bul" combo is a pretty tough trifecta to beat...And the fact that its gorgeous photography that sets up these three loves of hers makes it easy for me to page through it time after time after time (for those of you who have littles, you know that when they get stuck on something, they really get stuck on something).

Front and center in this issue is the work of Olivia Bee, a film photographer not more than 18 years of age. She seems to specialize mostly in taking angsty but magical pictures of her friends, and in this instance, all wearing some bit of Hermes here and there...The pictures themselves are arresting, but the fact that its such a young person with so much vision makes me like it all that much more. And on film to boot (though she mentions that client work is usually digital-  client 18...i love it).  And want more boot? She does video too  - staring herself and her man in a film...If you know me personally, you know I have kind of a thing for teen angst and this is definitely it, just in a much dreamier version.  In an interview with T magazine, Bee mentions that Hermes basically sent her a box of 30 scarves and told her to run with it, providing a few suggestions as starting points but it was Olivia herself that dreamt up the bows and the hats and the scarf tent...So much admiration for this girl I tell you.

So before we see what the spring catalogs will bring (this one will be tough to top), I think I would like to live in Olivia Bee's version of winter a little longer...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Trip Report n.07: Uxmal...

One more trip report up for you this week, this one from Uxmal.  We covered a lot of ground in terms of ruins on our trip last year, so I thought we had likely exhausted some of the better possibilities but honestly, this year didn't disappoint.  There's just that much good stuff in the joke.  
We headed out to Uxmal towards the start of the trip on possibly the foggiest day of the trip so you'll have to forgive the rather murky allure of these photos.  However, I prefer to think that it adds to the overall mystique of the place.

Now, I'm no expert on Mayan ruins, but I have to say that these were some of the best for us - and by "best" I only mean that we personally enjoyed them a lot.  There are lots of places to explore and lots of buildings that give you a sense of the scale of these cities.   They look different enough from Chichen Itza that you get a different experience and there is still a pyramid you can climb  - though with diplo-tot on the back, I didn't risk it (the things can be steep and slippery - don't be fooled by the pictures!). 

There are lots of little pockets and surprises to explore as you're walking around.  Definitely make an effort to be there right when the ruins open at 8 - you'll share these treasures with only a few others before the buses roll in and before the heat dials up, which makes it magical in it's own way.  The Uxmal ruins are also a bit less commercial in general compared to some of the others, and if you go earlier you literally won't see a vendor of any least, not for now...

At times it was so foggy that the photos might as well have all been in black and white...
Also, all these little doorways and arches seem like they'd be great places to lean against for a nice frame to your photo, right? That's also what I thought until I sent diplo-husband to stand in one of them which set of thousands and thousands of bats into a shrieking and guano-producing frenzy...

I think that they must standardize the vendors to some degree at these ruins because the exit of nearly all the ones we've seen have the same type of courtyard with various concessions.   We seem to be lucky in terms of timing - we're just coming out as the buses pull up.  A coffee or lemon granita has been our treat then as we sit down and watch the lines form, each bus just a little different than the one that unloaded before it...And as we were leaving Uxmal, I couldn't help but notice we weren't the only tired ones!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

On the golden sea...

The Golden Sea - Bali from InfinityList on Vimeo.

This video makes me:
1/ Want to go back to Bali...
2/ Want to eat beachside BBQ...
3/ Wish I knew how to surf...

I'll put those on the to-do list...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Trip Report n.6: Merida...

Slowly but surely our Mexico pictures are coming together - first up, our trip to Merida!

We didn't stay long in the town as we were staying in an Hacienda but we came in for an afternoon and evening to get a feel for the town.  Beautiful architecture - especially with the colonial facades and plaster relief really make this town stand out.  After the time on the hacienda, there's a certain hustle and bustle that any city has that takes some getting used to but the town is nothing but charming, really.

First stop, and main stop, was the zocalo - which is pretty much where the action is at the sunset hour.  Children getting out of school. Gents getting their shoes shined.  Packs of girlfriends gadding about.  It's where you'll see pretty much everyone and it feels nice to be part of the city fabric.

Carriage rides are very much the order of the day in Merida but as we have two who are highly allergic to horses, it was more looking than doing for us...

The Cathedral is actually the oldest in North America...I was intrigued by all of these signed ribbons that people kept leaving on the Saint below.  I didn't have the guts to end up asking someone at the church was this was all about...

As it gets dark, the whole city just gets a warm glow all over it.  I'll be posting on Mexico throughout the next couple of weeks so be on the lookout for a little guide to Merida and the area!
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