Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back Soon, My Little Pets...

Hi, Everyone! I'm back in Vienna after a short business trip to Zurich and even though I got more airport quality time than I had wished for due to a cancelled flight in ZRH, I'm headed for VIE airport soon, this time for pleasure, not business. From Tues to Fri I'll be in Mallorca with my Mum. The weather forecast has rainy cloud symbol for each of these days, but I'm optimistic and it's not a beach vacation, but a sightseeing one after all. Also, there might be one or two shops or nice cafés to hide in, should it rain...
Don't expect to see a post until after next weekend, WiFi permitting, I'll probably be sharing pictures on Instagram, though.
In the meantime, enjoy this picture of de rigeur dog fashion 2013 as seen on Graben, Vienna, earlier today...
And there's also something to look forward to: I perfected my macarons recipe and after baking 3 different versions on 3 consecutive weekends  feel confident that it really is foolproof and shall be posting a step-by-step tutorial here. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Everybody has a Cold: So What?

This post is inspired by the fact that several of my friends are currently in the throes of a nasty cold and keep cancelling dates on account of themselves or one of their kids being sick. At least that's the official excuse anyway...might just be the case that they don't want to see me, haha. 
I thought I'd share some tips with you on how I avoid getting a cold. Please don't get me wrong and think I claim to have super powers or to be magically immune to viruses. I'm also aware of the fact that sometimes you just can't help it because your immune system might be at rock bottom for whatever reason or you are subjected to more than one trigger at once. Least of all do I want to go all esoteric on you and tell you to avoid stress and think positive as this is not really always in your power to implement...All I'm saying is that I have developed a pretty solid routine of staying healthy despite the fact that I travel a lot and am frequently subjected to an intersting cocktail of germs.  I learned the hard way, so to speak as I cought a cold on my first trip in a series last summer and then had to endure the subsequent one on which I had to give two full-day lectures with a sore throat and cough. Not nice.

Let's call my tried and tested method the" SO WHAT Approach" that works especially well for the frequent traveller:
Take action
Supplement: It might be worthwhile to prep yourself with a cocktail of vitamins, echinacea and the likes (think Supradyn, Berocca, etc.) before going on a trip or embarking on some stressful project. Remember that this should be a one-off, so don't pop supplements like smarties or your body will get used to them. I firmly believe in Frequent Flyer and Airbone, none of which are available in Austria and indeed many other European countries, so make sure to stock up in Australian or US drugstores when you get the chance.
Outdoors: Your Mum was right all along that you should go and play outside: enjoy fresh air and don't lock yourself inside all day in the mistaken assumption that it's better, because you're far from potential virus-epicentres. By living in your little bubble, you will send your immune system warriors to early retirement and they'll forget to fight against any intruders anway. This is very likely not scientifically proved at all, but what I like to believe in anyway. If you need another argument in favour of going outside: it's better to take a walk than take the bus or tram for 2 stops if you have the time because you kill two birds with one stone: get exercise and avoid the sick people sitting next to you on public transport...
Water: This works two ways: 1- wash your hands after travelling on public transport, having being in the company of anyone who's sick, or before eating. I like to carry hand sanitizer with me and also use it religiously if no water is available. There are several nice-smelling variations available now so there's no excuse. 2 - hot baths. If you have a bathtub at home or in your hotel room, do immerse yourself with or whithout some anti-cold bath salts whenever you feel cold or a bit under the weather. Trust me, it works wonders!
H(e)at: Keep those parts of your body warm that are likely to make you cold and uncomfortable. In my case, these are my head, throat and feet, so I always wear a hat, scarf and warm socks in winter. On fiercely airconditioned planes especially I wrap up in a warm pashmina. Again, there is a second aspect: drink tea or other hot drinks. My feelgood-infusion of choice is Twining's Ginger & Lemon tea and I always take some tea bags with me when I travel as most hotels have a kettle these days.
Avoid: Don't actively seek scenarios that you already know are not the best for your health if you can avoid them. If airconditioning or cold drinks are your week points (and yeeees, I know that it's a virus that causes you to get the common cold, but it makes you more vulnerable to catch that virus anyway), switch the AC off or ask for a drink without ice.
Take Action: If the "avoid" tactic is not possible or you end up sitting next to that constantly coughing and sniffling person on the plane and don't want to catch whatever killer virus they are happy to share, do like I do and have a drug on standby that fights off first signs. There is something by Vicks (or Wick, depending on where you live) that is aptly called "First Defence" or Erste Abwehr. I really think it works and like supplements use it sparingly whenever needed. My other miracle remedy are throat pastilles made of propolis, which I always stock up on when in Slovenia. They are definitely an acquired taste and some people I've given them to find them almost unbearably disgusting, but I really don't mind their taste and swear by them. As soon as I get that certain feeling in my throat that tells me "Oh-oh", I take one or two of them and the symptoms disappear. You might know of another natural remedy, this just happens to me my potion of choice. Whatever yours is, it only works if you have it in your pocket or handbag so you can really take whenever you need to and not at home in your medicine drawer.
I realise that most of the above falls into the "Duh. Obvious" category, but I thought I'd share with you anyway as it works for me.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Have a good one

 Here in Austria, winter has returned with a vengeance. In a nutshell: we now have the winter wonderland we longed for around Christmas. Well, unless you live in a city where it's all brown slush, little pebbles, salt-lines on your shoes and people complaining about the winter. I'm not tired of snow and the cold yet and am planning to go ice-skating on Sunday. Wishing you a good weekend, whatever the weather in your part of the world may be.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Glossy Valentine's

Yesterday, I received my February Glossybox uncharacteristically early (usually it comes on the very last day of the month). It was Valentine's-Day-themed and apart from a disgusting chocolate shower gel from the Body Shop that smells rancid and would send me puking rather than devouring my love interest had (this imaginary) he showered in it, it looks quite promising:

 So, at least somebody got me a pink gift with a ribbon, not that I really honour this day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DUB: Bags and Wings

Last week I was in Dublin. I'd been looking forward to the trip as I hadn't been there in two years and still have fond memories of my time as an Erasmus student in the 1990s. Yes, young reader, this was basically when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. To be honest, I didn't plan my trip wisely and due to a stop-over in Frankfurt basically wasted Monday and Thursday travelling and eventually only had two full days in DUB. This did not mean that I didn't put the layover time to good use and, erm, boosted the German economy. How did you guess, I bought a bag. A super lightweight unlined leather shopper by Picard, which was 50% and set me back a mere EUR 79. Too good to pass up. Here's a photo of me posing with it in my hotel room:
Unfortunately, I had hardly any time to explore the shops downtown and so just managed to squeeze in an hour of power-shopping on Tuesday night (shops mostly close at 7, which doesn't help). While I popped into Boots my colleague went to Brown Thomas, Dublin's upmarket department store and I told her I'd join her in the bag department in 10 minutes. I was still in the queue to pay for my bits and pieces when she turned up with a Louis Vuitton paper bag. Wow. That certainly was quick, but then again she has worked with me for almost 5 months now...
Here's a photo of her with the LV bag and a Penneys one. Penneys is the original Primark and somewhat less elegant and pricey:
No matter how little time I have in Dublin, one thing is always at the top of my list: a visit to the Elephant and Castle for their legendary spicy chicken wings. Seriously, these are among my very favourite dishes in the whole wide world. Obscenely vinegary and moreish. Even though they are technically a starter, only the hungriest of men who have spent the day doing hard physical labour can possibly polish them off and order a main course. My colleague and I shared them. I start drooling just looking at the picture:
Admittedly, the photo doesn't do them justice and you have to taste them to believe me. I never like chicken wings anywhere else (usually they come in a nasty BBQ flavour), but these are finger-lickingly divine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

An Afternoon in Pink

Hello, lovely readers. Are you all geared up towards V-Day? No? Well, me neither, haha. But who needs a Hallmark holiday to inflict a sugar coma on herself, eh? Me, I invited a group of my favourite peeps to a five o'clock tea chez moi. It was actually kind of a substitute for my traditional girly advent gathering which didn't take place in December due to my frequent travelling. I love baking, as you might know by now and I love organising events to the last detail. Any excuse to decorate, really. So, even though eventually only 6 ladies showed up, I had enough sweet treats for a primary school. Doggy bag were compulsory is all I'm saying.
In keeping with the fact that it was the last weekend of Carnival Season, I went with the motto "colourful and sprinkly". What I made:
Traditional American-style cookies with white and dark chocolate, "skinny" lemon & mango cupcakes with lemon icing, chocolate-orange cupcakes with white-chocolate icing... well as carrot cake with caramel cream-cheese icing (and self-made chocolate hearts)...
 ...and of course macarons. To be precise, macarons with cream of rose filling:
I was particularly proud of the macarons as this was my third attempt at making something that did not decide to betray me and spread like evil (if tasty) goo on the baking sheet, but retained its shape and tasted decent. Yay! I think the secret to the right texture is that the whipped egg-whites and sugar should be ever so slightly "chewy" and stretchy. I'm still not a big fan of all the gooey mess associated with piping bags.
As my lovely guests came bearing (birthday) gifts, I also got wonderful things. I'm not going to list them all here, but show you the one that matches the theme of a retro tea-party best, the super-cool pink umbrella I got from Amica. Don't you wish you had one yourself?
If you got diabetes or gained 2 kilos from looking at the pics above, don't sue me, ok?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

I Love Birthdays (Not Only Mine)!

I don't know about you, but I just LOVE birthdays. Mine, as well as other people's. Receiving presents and making/buying/wrapping them. Getting cards as well as selecting and writing them. I know people who don't even care about their own birthdays, but make a fuss about Christmas. In my book, Christmas is what everybody (who celebrates that holiday) celebrates on the same day, whereas birthdays are special and all about making ONE person feel special and happy on that day.
It's probably a sign of age that I no longer have unrealistic expecations either and have taught my inner drama queen to chill that I enjoy my birthdays even more than I used to do and don't expect them to follow a script known only to myself. Basically, I'm a -very happy- kid on my birthday. 
This year, I was particularly happy, in part because I got some e-mails that made me smile all day, but I also got some unexpected gifts this year, such as flowers from people I least expected them from, see pictures 1 and 2:
I also got a lovely bunch from the Mermaid, who can be relied on to shower me with pressies and flowers on my birthday:
I not only got bouquets, I also got actual presents, here's a best-of so far (haven't met with everybody who has goodies for me yet):
MC surprised me with a gorgeous travel brush set from Bobbi Brown, the type that I would always be too stingy to splurge on for myself. Perfect for this frequent traveller!
 On my birthday, I went for dinner with Mademoiselle and the Mermaid, and even if both had a long day and it was raining heavily outside, they not only kept me company, but also came laden down with gifts. From Mademoiselle, I got a beautiful round glass plate and two bowls from Iittala, which you know (and she knows, obviously) I like a lot:
The Mermaid had actually asked me what I wanted and I had given her the motto "beauty and relaxation", expecting a massage or pedi voucher. I got a deluxe set each for face and hair, the latter in convenient travel sizes. What I was probably most excited about and what unfortunately caught the flash in the picture below was the heated eyelash curler, which for some inexplicable reason I missed when it was out at Tchibo. Well, just as well I missed it or I would already have had it. It works like a treat once you overcome your apprehension that you are putting heat near your eyes and is much more efficient for my pigs bristles of eyelashes than the conventional eyelash curlers.
As I am writing this post, I am at my parents' and I unpacked my gifts this morning. I had chosen most of my presents myself, which did not diminish my joy, however. Starting with some jewellery. My Mum had discovered a shop by a Carinthian designer in town and took me there to choose something. I went for two rings that not only are pretty...
 ...but also glow in the dark! As you can see in the picture below when I stuck my hand in a wardrobe, the green glows much more:
I did get one surprise gift: a skirt, top and necklace made by my Mum to match a jumper I had chosen and left here. The photo doesn't do it justice as you can hardly see the skirt and necklace, so you'll have to trust me. I actually insulted her with my first reaction being "Well...very loud!" but I've tried it and the combination looks very cool:
I had selected the jumpers in the sale (mustard-coloured one is from Sisley, the pink one from a shop in Tarvisio, IT) after Christmas and not taken them to Vienna with me. Underneath the right one, you can catch a glimpse of the beautiful DIY wrapping paper my Mum made:
Dad who had already given me a satnav for my car (that successfully led me to the hotel in Bled and back) took my subtle (or not) hint and ordered from my Amazon wishlist again. I have already finished the book on top and a graphic novel I got. I love autobiographic stories by expats of the type "One year in..." and this account of a German who has made Seoul her home is the perfect teaser for my upcoming trip there:
Well, the BIG present from my parents this year, value-wise was paying for half of my carpet. Excuse the photo which was taken with my phone. Again, my Mum had discovered it on a recent visit to Vienna and after protesting that "traditional" carpets were not my style and wouldn't fit into my flat, I took it home to try how it looked and let it stay there...
All in all, it's been a very happy birthday week!
P.S.: I'm going to be in Dublin next week with dinner dates lined up every night so don't expect to read from my for a few days. In case of acute withdrawal symptoms I suggest taking a look at the Instagram widget in the sidebar (top right), or following me there directly (username: wastingmytalent).
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