Monday, March 19, 2018

It's the Little Things...

Remember when I did this "exercise" for a full year, writing a weekly post on things that made me happy the previous week? Well, while I don't formally do this anymore, i,e, take the time to write it down, I still sometimes reflect on those little or big things. Like this past week, when I devoured an old-school "offline" paperback book, one of 5 books I had received for my birthday, enjoyed my Russian language lesson with the same funny and charismatic teacher I had the first time I took lessons with Berlitz (we were assigned another - horrible - teacher at first, but then thankfully got her as a replacement), or hung out with some lovely people on the weekend. One of them was an ex-colleague from the Firm (honorary president of my "fanclub"), the other a colleague (the one who keeps me sane) from my current one.  Well, that only took nine months! Ever since starting at Household Name, I had acutely felt the void that "hanging out with colleagues" had left. Sure, I still occasionally met colleagues from my two past jobs, but I had not yet bonded enough with the current ones that I would socialise with them after hours. Some people might actually be very happy about this situation, but for me it was a bit strange after all these years of working with friends who also happened to be colleagues. (We went to see the Keith Haring exhibition - hence the picture).

Monday, March 12, 2018


Last week I was in Salzburg on business. The purpose of my trip was to join an external trainer holding workshops at the Salzburg city branch of Household Name. The topic of the workshop was "strengths-based leadership", the audience people-managers. In order to make the round of introductions more interesting and already put attendees in the right mindset of focusing on strengths, the trainer wrote 3 questions on the flipchart. "What is my name and function?" "Why am I here?" "What am I - at least a little - good at?". Now the same format of workshop has been held at the Vienna office several times and the first time I read these instructions, I found it very strange to have included this modifier "at least a little". I mean, who can't name at least one thing they are good at immediately, be it a private or a work-related fact. Then I thought about it and realised that 10 years of working for an American company completely made me change my mind and become much "braggier" than I was before. When you are constantly asked to reflect on and talk about all the "amaaaazing" things you did on a daily basis, it becomes second nature at some point. Even for Austrians or other Central European whose mentality almost forbids them to do so, for fear of being thought arrogant and boastful. By including that modifying "at least a little bit" you make it easier for those who struggle to talk about what they are good at. 
The workshop also includes a session where you split up in smaller groups and talk about, among other things, something that made you proud of the previous week. It's always interesting to see who talks about something from their private life and who picks something job-related. Myself, I am "at least a little bit" proud of pretty spontaneously posting my first ever article on LinkedIn last week, which I guess is a bit of both business and pleasure.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Go Royal or Go Home

Unlike me, Mademoiselle is pretty clued up on European high aristocracy. This is mainly due to the fact that she grew up stealthily reading the glossy magazines her parents had subcriptions for to keep patients in her father's (a doctor) waiting room entertained. Thus, an interest in miscellaneous royalties was planted into her early in life. In summer 2015, Chiquita and I spent a few lovely days in Stockholm. When I mentioned to Mademoiselle that we were going there, she said "Hey, isn't this when Prince Carl Philip is getting married?" My reply was something like "There is a Prince, too?" as I was only aware of the two Swedish princesses. Turned out there was indeed and he was getting married the very weekend we were there. Thankfully, the Swedes seemed pretty chilled about the whole affair and it was all very low-key as far as royal weddings go.
This past Saturday, we were on a train to Salzburg, leafing through a January issue of UK Hello! magazine that a friend had given me in Sofia the weekend before. Half of it was about Princes William and Harry, including the latter's wedding. "Wait a moment", Mademoiselle said, "Could it be that the wedding is right on the weekend when we'll be in London in May?". I quickly consulted the internet and found that, yep, this was indeed the case. Something tells me that being in town when Harry and Meghan are getting hitched will be slightly crazier and security will be extra tight. On the bright side, it might be a good time to visit museums and shopping precints while everyone else is glued to the TV screen or lining the streets of Windsor. We shall see...

Monday, February 26, 2018


This weekend, I was in Sofia for pretty much 24 hours and it was my 24th visit in this city.  Yes, I almost could not believe this number myself, but I painstakingly went through my archive, aka e-Mail inbox to search for all my booking confirmations for flights to Sofia. Somehow, a year without a visit to Sofia feels incomplete and that's why I decided to "cash in" some of my frequent flier miles for a free flight to the Bulgarian capital. As I also used miles to pay for taxes, it really cost me zero Euros and that's why it didn't feel quite so crazy and extravagant to fly out on Saturday afternoon and departing on Sunday evening. I did't splurge on the usual 5* hotel of my business travelling days but tried a very nice, very central 4* hotel, that ended up being a good choice. Was this flying visit worth it? Definitely! It hit the spot of business-trip (at least by plane) deprived me and took me back to my favourite Eastern European city (currently proudly in charge of the EU presidency, by the way) where each walk is an adventure and exercise in not breaking your neck tripping over a loose part of the pavement, where most restaurants in the city have smaller aquarium-like satellite buildings for smokers who smoke while they eat, where security guards stalk you as you practice your Cyrillic reading skills on pots of face cream in DM and where Starbucks (and most other drinks and food) is pretty much half of what you would pay in Vienna and you can get from the airport to the city centre with a metro ticket for 1,60 BGN (approx 0.8 EUR). Attractive price-points aside, I have given up of trying to discover just why I like it so much, but I do and I am looking forward to my 25th visit...possibly later this year.

Monday, February 19, 2018

An Old Classic Revisited: Brioches

A few months ago, a friend of mine remarked that "your brioche recipe is still a staple in our household". I gave her a puzzled look. My brioche recipe?! The it dawned on me. Right. THAT brioche recipe! I used to bake it so, so often in my teenage and student years. If I remember correctly, I copied it from one of the first sachets of dried yeast I (or my Mum, more likely) ever purchased when it became available in supermarkets in Austria in the late 1980s. It is super easy to make and was a firm favourite among my friends. So much so that some of them asked for the recipe. Somehow, I had completely forgotten about it and last baked these wonderful fluffy, lemony brioches a good 20 years (!) ago until recently when I found some dried yeast that I wanted to use up, and remembered this well-loved classic. If you want to try it yourself, here goes:

(makes 20-30, depending on how large you want them)


400g flour
a pinch of salt
180 ml milk
90g sugar (some of which is vanilla sugar)
100 g butter
2 egg yolks
zest of one organic lemon
1 sachet (21g) dried yeast
Pearl sugar (optional)


Put flour, salt, sugar, lemon zest and dried yeast into a mixing bowl. Heat milk and butter to 37° approx and add this mix as well as one egg yolk to the rest, mixing and kneading it into a supple dough. Form into a ball and leave to rise (covered) at a warm place for about 30 minutes. Knead the dough again and roll out onto a floured surface, cutting out triangles, then rolling these into "croissants" Mix the remaining egg yolk with some milk and brush this mix onto your brioches, sprinkling pear sugar on top. Leave to rest for another 30 mins, then bake in a preheated oven (180°, fan setting) for approx 15 minutes, depending on the size of your brioches.
Since these are not overly sweet, they also taste very nice with jam (I prefer apricot or raspberry myself ) for breakfast.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Subway Zombies

Image from:
While my commute to work previously was only a bus ride followed by a short walk through the most picturesque part of the city centre, I now need to change twice to get to my office. First, I take that same old bus, then the U3 subway line, followed by the U1. I have a theory about Vienna's first and oldest subway line, U1, which I had the dubious privilege to use for most of my student years and, let's not lie, is definitely my least favourite line. Why? I swear that it attracts a special breed of people. No, seriously! While blocking the doorways is somewhat widespread in all means of public transport in Vienna, it is particularly bad on the U1, and also comes in different variations. My favourite (NOT) is the "subway zombie" behaviour. It is people who - in the morning or evening rush hour - slowly shuffle towards the train when they hear it screech to a halt and see other people on the platform move out of the corners of their eyes, all the while they are typing in their smartphone. If you happen to want to board the carriage right behind such a zombie who is completely oblivious of the fact that there is hardly any space on the train anyway and the "stand back, the train is about to depart" message has already been played, you just want to whisk their phone out of their hands and shove them in, all in the same smooth karate move. Those 3-4 stops (depending if I leave the train of horrors one stop earlier or not) are a daily exercise in self restraint and patience, both of which are not my strongest virtues. Some days, only the fact that I don't want to end up a frontpage headline on those free newspapers comes between me and losing my calm.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Outbound & Inbound Tourism

Whenever people ask me what I miss most about my previous job, "the travelling" is pretty much the first thing I reply. I have said it many times before, but I'll briefly say it again: unlike others who find travelling (be it for business or pleasure) tiresome, it energises me and I really live for it to put it in a clichéd phrase. Having nothing lined up, travel-wise at the beginning of the year, feels strange and you can bet that within the first month of 2018 I made sure that several weekend beraks are slotted in my calendar now, some of which you see above in the screenshot of my Google Trips app. In addition to that I got very excited when one of my best university friends, l'Italiana, whom I last saw in person 10 years ago (!) is planning to visit me with her eldest son this summer. I love entertaining visitors and house guests just as much as I enjoy jetting off somewhere and exploring new cities.
This travel bug and curiosity is definitely genetic, in my case inherited from my Mum's side of the family. While my paternal grandmother (a housewife) who could enjoy free travel on our state railways thanks to my grandfather having been employed there only visited Vienna, our capital city, once in her lifetime (and she died aged 96) for her son's wedding, my maternal granny, who was self-employed in a stressful job, for many of her working years hopped on the bus to the Italian seaside (my grandparents lived near the border to Italy) at least once a month on her own to destress on a daytrip that energised her. My paternal grandfather was the same: always curious, always eager to explore and meet new people. 
I am incredibly grateful not only to have the time, health and economic means to  travel, but also to live in a peaceful place that offers so much to see at home and a short car, train, bike, plane journey away. (Insertion of cheesy #blessed optional)
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