Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Like Old Times

This week, my frustration level is so much lower as the Empress is back in town for the week. Yay to lunch-hours spent eating overpriced food in paper boxes and plastic containers...
...and trying on every single hat on sale before settling for one each:
Mine's the red sheepskin one. Mühlbauer rocks!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekend Kaleidoscope III

1. Mirrored in my Mum's glasses on the slopes of Bad Kleinkirchheim
2. Wörther See, semifreddo
3. Parental birthday pressies, unopened
4. Some of the pressies, including a print (that I had seen in the window of a gallery in KLU months ago when walking past with my Mum, writing down the artist's name and then completely forgotten about it. Thankfully, Mum hadn't...), a linen scarf hand-dyed and painted by my Mum, a voucher for a vacation in Mallorca (not the clubbing, but the sightseeing kind) with my Mum, a stone necklace with 40 stones and white coral by my Dad, jewellery (a necklace and bracelet) by my Mum, hidden by the joke-necklace of 40 gummy beans and a patchwork-cushion also made by my Mum.
5. The main course of my b-day dinner at a restaurant in KLU: suckling pig and parsley mash
6. Dessert: creme brulée - yum, yum!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Senior Citizen...

As of today, I am a member of the exclusive (?) circle of quadragenarians. This latinate synonym makes it sound even more ugly and geriatric than the literal "40-year-olds". Ah, well.

In honour of my officially turning ancient, my Mum (never one to pass up a bargain opportunity), with whom I went skiing yesterday spontaneously decided to buy two instead of one senior citizens concession ski passes yesterday, reasoning that nobody asked for an ID anyway...
What better symbol for waving goodbye to my youth than being a Seniorenkarte-holding member of society...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vienna Landmark by Night

Interesting light projections onto Stephansdom - I like it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wishful Thinking...

Needless to say, my memory is selective. Rain? What rain? I'm of the "it's may brain and I dream all I want to" school...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

(Faux) Diamonds are a Lunchbreak's Best Friend

When I was in town on Saturday afternoon with the PP's Sis, we walked past MAX, a nice and rather inexpensive jewellery store in Plankengasse and looked at its window display. The shop was closed, but I was determined to go back to try one of their super-dainty rings. Well, I couldn't resist. For lack of a knight in shining armour who forces diamonds upon me by the kilo, I have to a) buy it myself and b) go for faux. The ring (silver plated with rose gold and studded with zirkonia stones) cost all of €39. I'm wearing it on my right hand as usual and only put it on my left middle finger for photo purposes - I am right handed:

Once again without flash:
Perspective om the pics makes my finges look rather fat and stubby, where in actual fact I have trouble finding rings that don't slide off. I usually like big "statement" rings or wearing more slim rings together, but I like the look of this thin one on its own.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(DCCO) Double-Choc Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

I recently stumbled over an interesting sounding recipe via a new favourite blog of mine. I slightly modified the recipe (e.g. used less sugar), replaced the raisins with dried cranberries and added chocolate chips. As I had a guest who loves white chocolate, I used both dark and white, but personally, I don't like white chocolate much and only appreciate it for the nice touch of white colour it adds. I'm pretty certain that I'll make these again, but I'll probably replace the white for milk chocolate next time or only use dark chocolate.

This recipe is super-easy and quick to make. Depending on the size of your cookies, you will get 30-40.


150 g softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 seaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (or less) salt
3 cups oats
1 cup cranberries
50 g chopped dark chocolate* or store-bought chips
50 g chopped white chocolate* or store-bought chips

* If I make the chocolate chips myself, I give them a bounce in a big sieve before adding them to the dough as fine particles might have a cocoa-powder like effect and "dye" the dough too brown, making it look a bit burnt.


Heat oven to 180° (with your fan on. If you don't have a convection oven, you might want to set it to 200°).

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, then flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add oatmeal, cranberries and chocolate chips last.

On a lined baking sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls. Gently press down each ball of dough with your hand or a spatula. The cookies turn out quite big - think "Starbucks-size". If you want smaller ones make sure to take them out of the oven a little sooner.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. When you take them out of the oven, the cookies are still very soft and appear undercooked. They will become firm (but remain nicely chewy) once they have cooled off, so don't worry.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weekend Kaleidoscope II

1. After-shopping treat at Konditorei Oberlaa: "Pannacotta Dessert". Very rich, in case you can't tell from the picture alone...

2. The main shopping exploits: Tory Birch Reva flats in a very subdued style (not). I got them for 50% off! Every time I buy a pair of flats, I think of my ex-boss, an ardent ballerina-hater. The jeans are by Mavi, an old favourite of mine back from the days when I was in Istanbul every summer. I stumbled over the perfect pair of super-elastic skinny jeans at Peek & Cloppenburg in KLU over Christmas and got them in a different shade of blue yesterday. I'm serious: these are the most comfortable and best-fitting pair of skinny jeans I have ever worn.

3. On Sunday morning, I baked very yummy oatmeal cookies with cranberries and dark and white chocolate chips: recipe to follow.

4. Trying to take a step in the right direction to put my main New Year's resolution into practice.

5. Ice-skating in the afternoon sun at Eislaufverein. It's so good to do some exercise in fresh air.

6. Laying out my collection of clutches and elegant purses for the PP's Sis who borrowed a selection of them to see which looks best with her ballgown. I own remarkably many of these "occasional bags" considering I never go to balls or gala events. Not that I wouldn't want to, mind!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


2012 hasn't quite got off to a brilliant start for me in certain ways, not that I am surprised. After three carefree months in Australia, reality was bound to bite...and call more loudly than before to change what I don't like about it. For the record, I'm officially not in the throes of some brutal 40th birthday crisis (yet anyway). Well, more about what has been bugging me at some other time, perhaps.

Last night I called my cleaning lady to ask when she would pick up my spare keys - that I had given to a neighbour to look after my flat and water my plants while I was in Sydney - to resume our biweekly routine. When I asked her how she was she told me that her husband died last Thursday at the age of 51. He was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago and when I left in September I knew that things weren't looking too bright, but I was still deeply shocked. She was really composed and seemed to be coping impressively well as his death basically was a relief for everyone after months of incredible suffering and her husband loosing one vital function after another. When I called, she had been preparing dinner, which in itself is comforting to know.

It was humbling to be reminded that basically all the things we moan about and consider tragedies of sorts are really insignificant in the face of losing someone you love (to death, not to somebody else...).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snowing at Last

When your house is on a busy street like mine is, you can always tell it has snowed overnight when you wake up and there's an almost eerie silence outside. Nothing swallows up traffic noise like fresh snow does. It's still snowing and looking very peaceful outside. Unlike the snow on the ground that is trampled and driven over within seconds after falling, turning into ugly slush, the snow on my windowsills and the rooftops stays pristine for a while, making you long for ski trips and invigorating walks in the countryside.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Night Panorama

Walking past Volksgarten on Sunday night, I quietly said "hi" to an old friend, the recently restored Theseus Temple in all its dazzling handsomeness.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Just One of Life's Many Mysteries...

Yesterday morning, when I was about to close my bedroom window, I took a double take. Two huge fire-engines and two police cars with their blue lights on were parked right in front of my house and one of the fire-engines had its ladder rolled out past my window. I still have no clue what this was all about (loose bricks or mortar in danger of falling on someone's head? Suicidal neighbour threatening to jump from the roof?), but whatever it was the crisis must have already been averted as the fireman was sitting there rather casually and all the cars left less than 10 minutes after I took this photo:
Quite an unexpected sight, though, to have a fireman sitting outside your window on a Saturday morning...

PS: I know that my windows are crying out to be cleaned.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Greetings on my Pillow

When I returned to my hotel room tonight, I found a sweet gift left by the maid that came with an interesting message: 
Somehow, it sounded more Japanese than Swiss to me...

Just as Well We Don't Know the Secret Formula

the "living-room corner" in my hotel room*

Yesterday, about 80% of my team were on the same flight to Zurich (where we are for internal meetings until tomorrow), which reminded me of the fact that this is explicitly forbidden in some companies. I even know someone whose parents always take separate planes - or at least did when the children were younger - in order to decrease the chance of making their offspring orphans. When I was a kid, I once read that the two men who know the secret formula for Coca-Cola are never allowed to take the same plane, a random fact (or possibly, urban legend) that deeply impressed me.

* Rooms at the Four Point by Sheraton hotel in Sihlcity (which the Gazelle dubbed "Sin City") are more spacious than your average Manhattan apartment and nightly rates - even corporate - are higher than the average GDP of an African country...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Little Aussie Art Gallery...

Apart from the many Australian purchases you've already seen here, I also bought 4 works of art by Aboriginal artists. These two paintings (by the same artist) work really well as a pair, which is why I hung them up side by side:
The painting below (by a different artist, but bought in the same gallery, on another visit when the Mermaid also bought a painting for her boyfriend) looks interesting juxtaposed with the enamel painting by a Slovak (or Czech...I'm not entirely sure) artist on top of my bookshelf:

The first purchase - sorry for the crappy photo with the reflection - was made in Melbourne in the shop of the Koorie Heritage Trust and is a print (2/2). It actually cost twice as much as one of the paintings above:

I'm really glad all my artworks made it to Austria without damage.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Weekend Kaleidoscope I

I plan to make this a regular feature, hence the "I" in the title. Here are some impressions of my weekend:

  1. Creative gifts handmade for me by my goddaughter (4)
  2. New woollen cardie-hoodie bought on Saturday.
  3. Printing out and cutting the photos for my 2012 "calendar edition"
  4. Rainy weekend in Vienna, but I was well-prepared (should have had these with me in Sydney)
  5. Unexpected Christmas pressies from my cousins
  6. Yummy salad prepared by Bella (she who used to update her blog more often than once in 6 months...)
  7. Stocking up on glittery nailpolish
  8. Matcha latte from Cha No Ma
  9. Getting a headstart on the decorations for my birthday party

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Christmassy PS

When I recently browsed through my bulging SD cards, I remembered that I also filmed some short videos, such as of the light projections n Sydney's Town Hall. Somebody was playing music nearby, so the soundtrack is live...

Saturday, January 07, 2012

High-Speed Carolling

In Austria January 6 (Epiphany) is a public holiday. It comes with the tradition of Sternsinger (clumsily translated as "star boys' singing procession" in this Wikipedia article that tells you all about it). Basically, it is children dressed up as the Three Wise Men, accompanied by an adult from their parish, who go from door to door in their neighbourhood to collect money for charitable projects with a religious background/funding. One of the Wise Men is supposed to be black so usually one child has the dubious pleasure of having their face painted with dark shoe-polish or theatre make-up, depeding on the degree of professionalism in its parish.

To my knowledge the Sternsinger may call upon you any time between Dec. 27 and Jan. 6, but where I live in Vienna, they seem to exclusively do their rounds on Epiphany Day. I suppose I might know more about their "strategy" if I occasionally attended mass in my parish, but I happen to never have set foot into that church , ahem.

Yesterday, I got to see them for the first time. You see, when I still worked at Coma HQ we usually had to work on January 6 to make up for the long Japanese New Year's holiday which would typically last until January 3 or 4. It was always an excrutiatingly dull day at work with no incoming post and all shops or restaurants closed. We usually ended up having lunch at McDonald's... Back when Mr. TD lived with me, I would instruct him to let them in and prepare money and sweets to give to them.

Ever since I have lived on my own again and not had to work on the 6th I always seemed to be out and about when they called. Yesterday, I was actually waiting for them to come, do their job and also leave their "20 C+M+B 12" blessing written on the door in chalk. Contrary to popular belief, the letters don't stand for the names of the magi (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar), but the Latin Christus mansionem benedicat, which of course means "May Christ bless your house". I digress...

When they still hadn't turned up by 2 p.m. I left home.

The doorbell rang at 5:30 or so when it was already dark outside. I could hear children's voices echoing in the staircase and opened the door to see that they were already halfway round the corner. Realising that someone had opened their door, they virtually jumped back to my doormat, belting out their song without any introduction. I had expected the adult to ask if they could come in or say something by means of greeting, but they just hovered outside my door, singing as if on "fast-forward", then extended their cash-box towards me and pressid a leaflet into my hands. Knowing that it is the custom to give the children sweets for their efforts, I handed them a little sachet of sugar-coated chocolates (see above) each, which the three girls (!) immediately ripped open and devoured. The lady who accompanied them didn't seem programmed to small-talk along the lines of "Oh, I didn't expect you to still be around so late on this cold day" (it was freezing yesterday with gale-force winds blowing) and so the whole spectacle was over in less than 2 minutes or so.

I was quite bewildered by this assault and wondered if there was a) a policy (in Vienna at least) to never cross the thresholds of houses and b) if they had drummed into the kids that time was money and they had to be as quick as possible.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Pimp My Kindle

It was only a matter of time until I would get some "periphery" for my Kindle. While I want to make a case for it myself *one of these days*, I ordered a skin online and couldn't resist going for Hokusai's Great Wave. Cheesy? Yep, but I like it:

This is what it looks like before application:

The front is less cool because there is obviously less surface for the image to shine, but it's o.k., too:

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

"Back to the Roots" Soup

Last night, I cooked for 3 wonderful ladies (the Australian, Mademoiselle and Amica) and even though it was a work night (well, for me at least, not for my guests) I wanted to make a proper meal. This meant that I needed to go for something I could at least partly prepare the night before. I chose a cream soup for starter, something I really like in winter and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream - one of my favourite soulfood dishes for the cold months - for dessert.

The soup turned out really well if I may say so myself and I want to share the recipe with you. I actually also want to write it down to be able to recreate it soon. It was inspired by Jamie Oliver's "potato, celeriac and truffle oil soup" (out of Jamie's Kitchen), but the only thing I kept is the celeriac, thyme and truffle oil. He uses chicken stock, for example, but I don't like using meaty stock for vegetable soups and always go for (organic) vegetarian stock cubes. The thyme gives an incredibly deep flavour to the soup, even more so than the truffle oil. So here goes:


1 small (white) onion - I always use shallots - diced
1 knob of butter
a bit of olive oil
1 bunch of fresh thyme, tied together with a string
500g* celeriac, peeled and roughly diced
250g* parsnips, peeled and roughly diced
250g* sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced
a little bit of white wine
1.2 l boiled water (use your kettle)
2 cubes of vegetable stock (feel free to make fresh vegetable stock if you want)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
truffle oil
125ml cream

* You can play around with the quantities of the 3 veggies according to your preferences, but try to use approx. 1 kg (unpeeled) in total.

In a biggish pot slowly fry the onion in the butter and olive oil until translucent and soft. Add your bunch of thyme (if you work with a gas stove be careful that the string doesn't catch fire on the open flame...) and all the diced vegetables. Turn up the heat and deglaze with the white wine. Add the boiled water and vegetable cubes, put on the lid and let simmer on a low temperature until the vegetables are soft. I usually turn off the heat after 15 minutes or so and just let the pot sit and cool down a bit for half an hour or so. Remove the bunch of thypme and purée the soup in a liquidizer or food processor until it is nice and smooth. This is what mine looked like before mixing:
Season with salt and pepper to taste and add half of the cream before reheating it for your guests. Whip the other half of the cream until it is just slightly firm, but not stiff, and gently fold under the soup just before serving. Let your guests add the truffle oil (it pays off to use a good one and make sure it is fresh - they go off quite easily) themselves. Serve with fresh bread (I used wholegrain baguette) and lick your lips.

I had the tiny leftover bowl for dinner today so am happy to report that it tastes good the day after, too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

One Thing Why My Friends Rock

...other than being intelligent and beautiful, is that they are just as "old skool" as I am when it comes to snail-mail hard copy Christmas cards:
I love my annual long string of cards (forgive the crappy photo).

Monday, January 02, 2012

3 Months

The last time I was out of the country for a longer period of time was back in 1993/94 when I studied in Dublin for 9 months. Upon my return, I was "brainwashed" and believed Ireland was the promised land for months, but other than that don't remember having noticed many things that had changed while I was gone.

This time, it is a strange mix of "wow, it feels I've only just left" (especially with regards to people who also said it felt I had just said goodbye) and "wow, when did all that happen?".

While I was away, several people became local celebrities that I've never heard of, but who are now on TV or on the radio all the time.

I've also missed all the little political scandals and other things that "moved the nation".

Austria now has a private railway!

Across the street from my house there's an "event agency" now.

An interesting-looking project seems to be going on outside the Museum of Natural History, transforming the lawn into a mini-Versailles.

Many ugly scaffolds have disappeared, including the big construction site at Westbahnhof, which now has some decent shops (most of which are closed on Sundays, this being Austria)
The cube is a shopping mall and food court and there is a new hotel at the other side of the station building as well:

Other than that, it's very much a case of same, same but different and whereas I re-adapted back into winter pretty easily (without catching a cold, even!) I have to say that returning to work was a bit of a reverse culture shock and my first instinct was "when and how can I apply for the next project abroad." I actually received an (informal) offer for a permanent post overseas, but I'd rather get started on my new year's resolution to make 2012 the year when I find a job that I'm really interested in. Fingers crossed.

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