Monday, November 26, 2007

Counting our Blessings

I'm counting my blessings this time of year, particularly when I think back to the months I spent in East Timor and how so many families lived in thatched huts, often sick with malaria and lacking basic food and clean water. As we think about the holidays, it's the perfect time to reflect on how we can help those less fortunate abroad, be it through an organization such as World Vision, UNICEF or CARE.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

All Things Swedish

This is what happens when you start thinking about a Swedish table and searching for get fixated on all things Swedish!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Swedish Inspiration

Given that my husband is partly Swedish, we've often talked about doing a lavish Christmas Eve Swedish table -- pickled herring, lingon berries, glog -- you get the blue and yellow pciture. But until this year, I haven't been truly inspired. Transport me to Sweden and you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be whipping up a Swedish feast but admist the hustle and bustle of the American holidays, I've never been truly inspired...until now. What has contributed to this state of mind? I was partially transported the other night on Coming B (okay, it was a French website) and a trip to Ikea today, so I'm now dreaming of our lovely table.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Can We Go Here Soon, Please?

Can you believe this place, Camp Ya Kanzai? Amazing....I was flipping through my November Travel and Leisure tonight and voila! Last year, South Africa...this year dreamin' of Kenya.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Another wonderful Thanksgiving -- and so much to be thankful for, including my family, friends, health, travel and so much more!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Winter Travel to Japan

I am absolutely spellbound by these photos in today's New York Times special winter travel section. Is it the steam coming off the sulfur bath as inches of snow weigh down the nearby bushes and trees or sight of the serene Japanese model treading through the deep snow in that fur-trimmed lovely silken outfit, hair up swept?

Friday, November 16, 2007

White Grass -- Shhhhhhhhh

We got up this morning in Washington, D.C. and could feel the snow in the air. You know what that means! We'll be heading out soon to White Grass in West Virginia - a little find that my husband introduced me to a few years ago. The basic "chalet" takes me back to Austria or Slovenia with it's very basic design (okay, design is a gross exaggeration), dark wood and cozy, wet atmosphere after a great day of cross country skiing. Then, we settle in at night for some great food and blue grass at the cafe or the Purple Fiddle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Flight Attendants?

Today's post is not about travel, per se. It is about flight attendants. Trust me, I know a few smart ones -- including a very good friend from college. Yet, I was struck today when reading a piece by Maureen Dowd about the power (and potential threat) of smart women. For many of us who would like to think that old stereotypes have vanished, some recent studies illustrate that is not the case. So, this is an ode to smart women, whether flight attendant, senior vice president, consultant, attorney, stay-at-home mom, know who you are! And if you happen to share a love for travel, that makes two things we have in common!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who Were the Orientalists?

I just fell in love. With the Orientalists. Okay, so they have all since passed into the Netherworld....but it has taken me a century or more to meet these wonderfully adventurous, daring and intrepid painters. I was introduced to their work the other night at a black tie soiree at the Saudi Arabian Embassy. No, it's not my typical evening but, then again, nothing was typical about the evening. A rich, Silicon Valley investor has amassed a tidy number of Ludwig Deutsch paintings like these. The details, including intricate lattice work and metal shields and swords, are amazing...the rich ambers and azure blues are inspiring...and the everyday scenes of 19th century Middle East life are as mysterious now as they were then.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Holiday Photos -- Oh, the Decision!!

It's about time to order our holiday photos and I've been poring over numerous photos we had taken on Fire Island this summer. While I won't give you the preview, here are some of the precious photos that I'm framing in black and white. I'm still undecided about which card to order from Tiny Prints.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Uplifting Kenyan Dance

I wondered how it was possible that these lively, exuberant young dancers from Kenya could have made it onto the stage at the Kennedy Center Saturday night? The Shangalia youth choir comes from Nairobi's largest slum, one of the largest in Africa. I went thinking we would be uplifted by the music -- and did not leave disappointed, despite the standing room only atmosphere. In bright short skirts, they enthralled, clapping, singing their hearts out, stomping, shuffling and wiggling in such uplifting spirit. I wanted to know more after the performance, having never seen this slum but only those in South Africa and imagining something very similar. My small investigation on-line proved that my mental images were correct. It made their performance all the more amazing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Few of My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things from the latest Gump's catalogue. Can't wait to shop there in person next month!

Friday, November 9, 2007

San Francisco Here We Come!

My husband and I are headed to San Francisco...don't these beds just make you want to dash away from dinner and head straight to bed? We're staying at the Hotel Monaco, a Kimpton Hotel. Love those!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Vive Viva Terra

I have a new ritual. It involves flipping through numerous mail order catalogues each night before bed, sometimes instead of reading. I know it's a silly habit but I think it originates from "mail deprivation" after five years of living in the Balkans. So, last night it was perusing Viva Terra and Uncommon Goods and Free People. I'm still thinking about this Buddha.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Slovenia Sadness

With the arrival of cold weather, I've suddenly become nostalgic for Slovenia. Bled, to be exact. Situation on a beautiful blue mountain-fed lake and surrounded by the Julian Alps, I used to spend many weekends there with friends eating hearty mushroom soup, playing golf (yes, I said golf), drinking wonderful Slovenian wine and sitting in the old sauna at the old world hotel along the edge of the lake. Some expat friends got married in there in 2001 and it was a magical, fairytale event -- taking gondolas over to the centuries-old church; dining at the castle perched precariously on cliff's edge overlooking Lake Bled and partying into the wee hours with a wonderful mix of expats and Americans who had flown in for the occasion. We used to stay at the Grand Hotel Toplice -- and it was truly grand, in an eastern European, somewhat downtrodden sense of the word. But the 5th floor suites with balconies were amazing as was the charm of the cafe and bar. They renovated about 5 years ago and I think they lost some of that charm but it's still a treasure. The Hotel Vila Bled, a former Tito residence, is another unusual place. I arrived there late one night with an old boyfriend in the dead of winter after traversing the mountains from Austria. For an additional $25, the manager upgraded us to the Presidential Suite -- 6 rooms, marble floors, 2 decadence in a Yugoslav sort of way. The rooms still contain furniture used by Josip Broz Tito and his family and guests.
Definitely worth a stop on any European travels: If you haven't given this country a look recently or ever, think again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Being Wonkish

What some of you may not know about me is that aside from my travels, which are usually for work, I tend to get very passionate about foreign aid and development -- and how we are aiding developing countries abroad escape from poverty. I also tend to get a bit revved up by the discussion surrounding "smart power." This is the term coined by Joseph Nye some time ago to describe how to get what you want through methods other than military might -- like public diplomacy and simple persuasion. I spent my morning listening to Nye and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage at an event hosted by D.C.-based CSIS to unveil the Smart Commission's report. One assumes, simply given the name of the Commission, that you are going to learn something novel. I love Armitage in these settings -- candidly bashing the hard-hitting, caustic and brash style of the Administration in his self-deprecating way, having been a key member of the team and yet not seeming disingenuous. Both Nye and Armitage talked a great deal about our need to export "hope," not "fear" -- a message that resonates for me personally.

I hope you might take the time to be a little wonkish today:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Hopper

I took my daughter to the Hopper today. That would be the Edward Hopper exhibition that opened at the National Gallery of Art. We had fun finger painting small replicas of some of his famous scenes, sitting cross-legged on brown paper they had laid out across the floor of the lobby. But the exhibit was crowded and overflowing. Fortunately, we got a few glimpses of his most famous paintings, including the Automat. I hadn't realized that Hopper spent a fair amount of time in Gloucester and some of his most amazing works are those featuring light casting shadows across homes and other structures.

It was such a beautiful fall day in the city and as we walked home back up the Mall past the Botanical Gardens and Capitol building, it was as if the light was paying tribute to Hopper, as the sky and buildings almost looked like a painting.

If you go:

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Facing the World One Spa Treatment at a Time

I must admit to today being a totally hedonistic day. I was dreaming of purging my body of fatigue and tension, but never imagined I could get a 10:30 a.m. appointment at the Mandarin Oriental spa, which I did this morning when calling at 10:05 a.m. and being told they’d just had a cancellation. Karma clearly in my court, I rushed off to the hotel and for the next 3 hours was transported to a zen-like land, my head traveling from country to country where I’ve had spa treatments and my body being scrubbed, rubbed, stretched and tended to in a warm, blue-lit cocoon. I paused in Tulum and remembered the fresh aloe vera cut just that afternoon from a nearby bush; went on to Hvar and could smell the lavender mist; hovered over Bangkok remembering that Thai massage and the wonderful ways in which was pulled and twisted; and lingered in Phnom Penh where a blind masseuse had worked wonders with my muscles. Most of the time, I was in a peaceful, calm place where the only sounds were water dripping into a copper bowl.

Elongated and free of my burdens, I went out to face the world.
And if you'd like a little of East meets West in Washington, D.C.:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cozy Fall in the City

I just love the city or in the country. Somehow the fall leaves crunching under my feet, rainbow of fall colors and the smell of logs burning on the fire combine to create a feeling unlike no other. For years when I lived overseas, I sometimes missed the feel of fall football tailgating and American traditions that go along with fall...and now seem to cherish those all the more.

This weekend, I'm putting aside my travel lust to focus just on being here amongst the delightful sounds and smells of fall.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dubai Craziness

I had a call today from my old assistant, Amanda, who has just moved to San Francisco and has been on a wonderful travel odyssey to get there via New Orleans and Austin (you go girl!). We had so much fun traveling and working together in 2006 -- Dubai, Ecuador, Romania, South Africa. She's a free spirit and I salute her sense of adventure. I loved it that she brought a guitar back from Dubai...and was obsessed with the big, infamous sail-like Jumaireh hotel on the beach, respondent in all its glory with tacky colored lights and bursts of flames from tall torches. Do you still have that tacky plastic great pepper grinder I bought you, Amanda, shaped like the hotel?

Here's to Dubai! If you go:

Fireside Travel

I've been thinking a great deal lately about my previous travels and travels yet to come. I don't know how I got the travel bug. What about you? Did you ever wonder why two people who come from the same family can have such different ideas about life, love, and certainly about travel? I'm wondering for a few reasons related to my family and upcoming travel, including a planned family trip for my mom's 70th birthday and a trip my husband and I are planning to the French Alps next May/June.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking about influences that may have charted my course...a book, a film, a person who inspired my love of travel, cultures and adventure. I haven't yet put my finger on it. What about you?

Doesn't this photo give you inspiration?