Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Yesterday, I turned a year older (nope, still no midlife crisis) and had a great day. Being the prototypical "transparent customer" with loyalty cards from every imaginable store, I have enjoyed several freebies on the occasion of my b-day on top of presents from people who actually know me. Among the former, a free drink of my choice from Starbucks where I am a card-holding member, too. I'm actually on fast-track to become a "gold member" and this surprises nobody more than me. In general, I'm not a particular fan of Starbucks, neither of their coffee, nor food offerings. But. BUT. As I have mentioned here before I am a big fan of their matcha lattes. This is the first time I am aware of that they are offering them - for a limited time - in Austria and I have stopped at the branch nearest to my office almost every single day for a post-lunch treat. For some inexplicable reason, they have decided to enhance the tea with melon syrup (yuck!) here, but if you leave that out and ask for soymilk instead of regular, it tastes just like in Japan.
More on the pressies I got from friends and family this year coming soon.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
After the little digression into the realm of retail therapy in my last post, here are some photos from the city itself. While probably not one of those places you must see before you die, although I'm sure locals would probably beg to differ, I really liked it and was particularly impressed by the friendliness of the locals. Unfortunately, the Serbians definitely got a bad PR as the baddies in Yugoslav war and are not the most popular species in the eyes of many of their ex-compatriots. My friend, known as "Snow White" here, who emigrated to Austria from Sarajevo in the 1990s raised an eyebrow when I told her my cleaning lady was Serbian and I had entrusted her with my key, saying she would never trust a Serbian... Speaking from my limited tourist perspective: nice locals!
Belgrade, and indeed most Balkan destinations might not be the right place for your if you are either of the following: vegetarian or sensitive to smoke. Vegetables and dairy products might be wonderful and offered everywhere, but you are bound to see large portions of grilled dead animals in every restaurant (me, I like the dead animals on my plate occasionally...) and will get way more than your fair share of passive smoking on any given day. In fact, I thought my contact lenses were going to pop out any second if I stayed wedged between my chain-smoking colleagues any longer...
Monday, January 28, 2013
Hello, everyone. I hope you all had a great weekend and aren't affected by ye ole Monday blues too much. I have some photos from my recent trip to Belgrade that I want to share, but as I am too tired at the time of writing this I decided to write the shopping post before the "sightseeing" one.
By now you should know that I could be dispatched on a business trip to the Siberian tundra or an oil rig in the North Sea and still come back with some souvenirs.
This does not mean that Belgrade is such an unlikely city for a little shopping spree. In fact they have a Sephora and GAP, two stores I would really welcome in Vienna. While I compulsively have to buy something from Sephora anyways (the nail stickers I picked up on Sale in Belgrade were a flop, unfortunately as their adhesive had dried up and I had to throw them away), I really like to shop at local stores if I find something nice. Case in point: a knitwear designer called Ivko that I had never heard before whose flagship store I discovered. I bought a cardigan from their Sales rack for 50% and have already worn it twice. It's really good quality (merino wool) and has beautiful details and finishing.
I am in love with the colours and the design that reminds me of a pond with waterlilies. I was so proud of having disovered some obscure gem and was really baffled when la Mademoiselle asked me on Saturday when I took my coat off if the cardigan was by Ivko. Apparently there are some select boutiques in Vienna (including one near the school where she teaches) and she herself owns something by this brand. Ok, not so exclusive then, but I am happy with my bargain import all the same.
Other than that, I bought a new addition to my ever-growing collection of mugs. It says "Beograd" and contains a "recipe" for coffee+milk and a Plazma cookie.I find this a somewhat unfortunate name for a treat, but gathered that this must be some kind of local cult biscuit as McDonald's even has a shake with Plazma cookies in Serbia. I also discovered some fancy-looking bars of soap at the local DM:
By the way: while I might not speak many languages, I certainly speak sale in ANY language and immediately learnt a new piece of vocabulary: sniženje means sale or reduction in Serbian. In general, I like to pick up random words from every trip and my favourite Croatian word is slušalice, headphones.
Friday, January 25, 2013
On Parcels Good and Bad...
Yesterday morning, the usual sight awaited me when I got back to the office after a business trip: PARCELS! Among them, a delivery of NYX products which I am excited to try out as Youtubers are always raving about them.
I also got my Hunter boots from BuyVIP that I was really excited for. I opened the parcel and first of all noticed that the lining was torn at both heels. Hmmm. Not exactly what you would expect from this expensive brand, outlet or not...
WTF? Afer several e-mails to their help centre I realised I had to bite the bullet and trek to the post office to return the damaged goods. When I opened the box to repack the boots I saw a letter taped to the inside of the box. Belive it or not: somebody else had already returned those exact ruined boots (the letter was dated Jan. 10) and the competent guys in storage had obviously not opened the returned box, but forwarded them to me. Great:
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Playing With Make-Up
Hello, honeybunnies! Or rather "chanibanis" as my Balkan friends would say... My Croatian and Slovenian colleagues left by car this afternoon, leaving me to entertain myself in BEG. Well, after a night out in which 54 rakija were consumed by 6 people and I inhaled enough cigarette smoke for 3 lives (2 of my colleagues smoked 1 pack of 20 each in the restaurant) I don't actually mind a quiet night in my hotel room...
Perfect time to do some "homework" and upload some pics of my recent make-up experiment, right?
I was brought up not to waste food, nor other things and my Mum must have invented the concept of upcycling before it became widely known. So when I realised I had 2 lipglosses in my collection of lip products that I was not going to finish in this life, I decided to take action and merge them. One lipgloss (by Benefit) was "nude" in colour, something that does simply not look good on me, whose natural lip colour is very pale and who has a sallow complexion. The other (a MAC LE) was actually too dark and a bit too orangey and glossy for my taste and it had also begun to separate.
First off, I put both into a mug filled with water I boiled in the kettle. I made sure that the water came up to lipgloss-level:
Once both glosses had become more runny in consistency (I changed the water twice, i.e. threw out the cold and refilled with hot water) and what was sticking to the side had dripped back down, I unscrewed the tops and put the dark gloss on top of the nude one, fixing it with a bit of painter's tape and letting it stand upright in a small shot glass to encourage the top gloss to drip down to the bottom one.
I actually allowed it half a day, so be patient. It depends on the consistency of your gloss and the colour intensity you want, as well. It doesn't hurt to repeat the hot-water soaking at the end and/or stir with a wooden skewer. I am really happy with both the colour and texture of the finished gloss, which lightly shimmers and reminds me of my favourite Mac Vivaglam lipgloss:
I was unable to take any decent pictures of myself with my normal camera, so eventually resorted to my mobile phone to give you an idea of the colour on my lips:
Have you ever done something like that? And I mean AS A GROWN-UP as we've all carried out several beauty-related experiments in our tender youth that involved ruining some adult family-member's precious products, decorating furniture while we were at it, or cutting a defenseless younger sibling's or friend's hairs in the interest of science...
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Divine Veggie Gratin With Feta
Hello, my lovelies! I arrived in Belgrade this afternoon (more about that later) and just quickly wanted to share the delicious veggie dinner I conjured up on Saturday. I won't give you exact quantities as it depends if you are starving like I was and end up eating the whole contents of the ovenproof dish or just need a healthy side. Here's what I did:
I peeled and coarsely chopped potatoes (6 very small ones) and parsnips (2) and then washed a small Hokkaido pumpkin and chopped up half of it with the peel. I put everything in a dish with a bit of olive oil drizzled on the bottom, then seasoned with freshly ground pepper, Maldon sea salt and, for extra spice, a bit of "Cajun rub". Alternatively, you can add chilli and/or garlic. Since I love rosemary, I added 3 twigs on top and drizzled more oil on top. I only threw in a bit of parsley as it came with the parsnips, in case you are wondering.
I then covered with aluminium foil and put into the oven preheated to 200° (fan setting of your convection oven). It depends on the size of your chunks, but mine were fairly big, so I left it in for about 45 mins. I then put some coarsely diced feta on top and returned the babies to the oven for another 15 minutes or so, uncovered this time. You can also switch to grill if you have that option.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
A Breath of Fresh Air
This week I enjoyed two days in the Empress's company at work and it was almost like "the good old times". With the Gazelle on a sabbatical and the Scholar on paternal leave, social interaction has been virtually non-existant and it's actually ironic. Our old office (located in the same building) was pretty cramped and messy looking and I never really liked my job (ooops, now I've said it). However, I could always count on entertainment and distraction from work frustrations, i.e. banter across desks, hysteric screaming matches at foosball, fun lunchtime excursions and group-breakfasts at the office every morning. Now, I really enjoy what I'm doing, but the fun happens when I'm on the road or hanging out with my new team. Whenever I'm back in the (cool new) office, I often feel as if I'm a nun on a vow of silence and make sure to line up enough lunch-dates with friends from the Outside World.
Well, to cut a long story short, it was lovely having some human factor back and not just any one at that. The Empress - after a subtle hint of mine - came with an early birthday present and got me something I have never owned, but often coveted: goodies from Molton Brown, a brand that you tend to buy as a gift for other people, but are too stingy to splurge on for yourself:
We immediately fell back in the old pattern of the Empress dragging me to a shop where she had seen something and ME ending up buying it. This time, she wanted a hat with a furry bobble, but unfortunately all she tried on were too big for her. Well, for once I was at an advantage with my huge head and even though I had told her these hats were on the verge of being "out" now that everyone was wearing them, I could not resist a dramatic reduction to EUR 29. Yay!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Winter is back in Austria. On my way to work on Monday, Volksgarten looked like this:
The snow is mainly melted away in the city, but the forecast promises loads of it for tomorrow. I love snow, but not so much downtown, where it soon turns into unsightly brown slush and you drag pebbles (used to prevent slipping on ice) into your flat.
Speaking of white - I'm a big fan of LV's window displays. Despite the fact that there is a brand new flagship store now, I pass the old one every day on my way to work and admire the original displays. The shoes and bag are not bad, either, so...uhhhm...if anyone reading this would like to express their undying love and appreciation for me on my upcoming b-day: I wear size 38 shoes...
Monday, January 14, 2013
Sale Jackpot. Jackpot Sale
I've already picked up a few (or more) bits and bobs in the sale, but am not going to bore you with every single item. Last week I struck lucky at COS in particular and wanted to share my haul here with you.
I found a gorgeous wrap dress that looks like a two-piece and also grabbed up the scarf to go with the top I bought there on my first ever visit. Both were 50% off, which made the dress a bargain:
Have you hit the sales jackpot yet? I'm waiting for Steffl to reduce their bags to 50% (still 30% last week), but there was nothing I really lusted after from the A/W collection with the exception of one Coccinelle line that could tempt me if half-price. Will keep you posted.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Rebecca for the Phantom Wedding...
When Shopbop sent me a nice newsletter offering an extra 20% off sale items it was the perfect opportunity for me to bounce on something I'd been stalking for quite some time after hearing it raved about on YouTube pretty much all through 2012, the Rebecca Minkoff Mini Mac bag. This bag is not available offline in Vienna or anywhere in Austria that I know off and I am generally reluctant to order from the US when I have to pay customs fees, so a decent sale is the only time when I do that. Come and meet my metallic pink Mini Mac that arrived earlier this week and was waiting for me when I arrived after my days in Slovenia:
Both the interior lining and protective pouch have a nice polka-dot pattern and the MM can be worn as a cross-body bag, shoulder bag or clutch. I have to say that the metal hardware is rather heavy and noisy, but it does not take away from the general awesomeness of this glamour baby.
When checking out on the Shopbop website there was a clickable option to add a "complimentary wedding box" or something to that effect and thinking that "hey, I love me a good box" I of course clicked said box and, ta-daaaah, received the bag accordingly wrapped. So. Happy, erm, wedding to me.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Just Another Day at the Office
Well, outside the office, technically, but it being a work day in my colleague's company, it was a bit out of the ordinary. As a teambuilding activity, my Slovenian team-mate who was in charge of organisation chose a biathlon! It was a great idea and we had a brilliant time at Pokljuka. The last time I cross-country skied was about 25 years ago as I found it so boring as a kid I told my parents not to bother getting me another set of skis when I had grown out of my first.
Today I am feeling muscles I didn't even know I possessed, which can either be attributed to old age or lack of training, but I would do it again tomorrow if I had the chance. I had never attempted shooting before and was not that bad at it, either as long as somebody covered my left eye as I had problems focusing properly. Never mind the less than scary smurf hat (thanks, Mum), but I look as if I mean business there, right?
Monday, January 07, 2013
When in Bled...
...where I currently am on a team offsite, you MUST eat kremne rezine a.k.a. kremšnite. It is not uncommon for Austrians to embark on a daytrip mainly to eat the original, which you get at the Park Hotel. This cake or dessert which looks like a one-way ticket to instant sugar coma, is actually more creamy (yes, and rich) than it is sweet and the whipped cream layer of the original is almost unsweetened, whereas Austrian interpretations are often very sweet on top of being rich. In any case, this pastry makes me quite nostalgic as it is a rather local thing and not that well known in parts of Austria other than the South where I come from.
So, without further ado, meet the one and only kremšnita in all its glory and calorific beauty:
The one I had at Šmon yesterday was not to be frowned upon either and in my humble opinion the only difference was in price (higher at the Park Hotel, as can be expected for the original):Sooo. I am happy to report that within less than 24 hours I consumed 2 kremšnite already. Just as well that I don't have any New Year's resolutions of the dieting kind...
Wednesday, January 02, 2013
These Shoes Are Made for Walking!
...and taking 2013 in my stride. This parcel was waiting for me when I returned to the office after the Christmas holidays and is a sign - in case there was any doubt - that I'll continue to keep online retailers and delivery men in their jobs this year, ahem.
I don't have any New Year's resolutions other than make the best of this year and try to live every day is if it was my last. Well, possibly to bitch less and try to curb my nailpolish addiction (I did not realise I had a "collection" until it reached 3 digits...).
In any case, I'm looking forward to this crisp and fresh year, all the (new) places I get to see and people to meet. Bring it on!