Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Have a Good One!

Wishing everyone who has stopped by this year a happy and healthy 2014. May some of your wishes come true. By the way, I never understand why people always wish that all wishes come true - what point is there to live beyond if you get everything that soon and might not have anything left to wish for? 2013 and I definitely weren't BFFs, we had our issues, us two. Here's to a more harmonious relationship with its successor. Cheers!

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Addi(c)tion

I was one of these people who were totally anti Nespresso for years on account of all the waste generated by the capsules Ahem. Well, this year, I put a Pixie machine on my wishlist and also got it. Guilty as charged. My office in Vienna is literally a stone's throw from Nespresso's flagship store and since they introduced in-store recycling units for their capsules, my eco-friendly conscience is happy(ish) and I tell myself it's not that bad. I actually really started appreciating Nespresso coffee when we got an arty-farty barrista monster in our office that cost a fortune and all men got very excited about and realised that I don't actually like the coffee it produces that much and missed my old daily fix of "yellow" (unfortunately now discontinued) lungo. That probably is largely due to the roasted beans used, but still.
I am also a gold-card-carrying member of the Starbucks rewards loyalty programme and frequent one of the two branches that are also in dangerous proximity of my office almost daily. I don't drink sweetened coffee and don't like flavours in my cafeeine kick UNLESS they are of the spicy variety. I love their PSL (=Pumpkin Spice Latte, for the uninitiated) and to a lesser extent their Gingerbread Lattes, even though I always tell barristas to just put in 2 pumps of the respective syrup. The fact that the flavour (same as with Chai Tea Latte) comes from a syrup does admittedly gross me out a lot, but whatevz! This is where my ramblings lead back to my new Pixie baby: when I went to redeem my EUR 70 voucher for capsules that came with the machine in Klagenfurt's shiny Nespresso boutique, I was offered a coffee. I said that I would prefer taking home a capsule of their LE Masala Chai. Oh.Em.Effing.Gee. When I tasted it at my parents' it was love at first whiff and sip: SO good. I went into town the next day to buy 5 packs of it. It is like the timid lovechild of PSL and GL minus the sticky sweetness. If you love spicy coffee concoctions and own a Nespresso machine: go buy before it is discontinued.
A little PS on recycling: a friend of my Mum's gave her a parcel decorated with this Christmas tree ornament made by her granddaughter:
Something tells me that if I search YouTube for "Nespresso capsule DIY" I will come across a bottomless pit of recycling  ideas...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Random Pics from 5 SD Cards

I spent the past few days going through 5 SD cards containing thousands of pictures taken in 2012 and 2013 in order to select some for my 2014 photo calendar. These ones below didn't make it into that exclusive dozen, but I wanted to share some with you anyway:

sunset on the way back from Eisenstadt to Vienna
 sunset in Belgrade
tiled floor in Mallorca
Dad walking through the snow on Radsberg near Klagenfurt

techno-cat at Betahaus, Sofia

Peony in my parents' garden

Tea plantation on Jeju island

Dobos cake in Budapest (it looked way better than it tasted)

dog in Belgrade

Art installation in the foyer of Sense Hotel Sofia

"private island" aka Albertplatz, Vienna
window display in Sofia last December

Thursday, December 26, 2013


I hope you had a nice Christmas, everyone! Just in case you were kept awake at night, wondering what yours truly was wearing on Christmas Eve, let me introduce this year's "Christmas party staple" that I have worn two two office Christmas parties (1x Warsaw, 1x Vienna) plus the family one: a black cardigan with a mirrored gold-thread ornament in the front that I bought on my most recent trip to Sofia. It has an old-fashioned vibe (in fact my Mum said it reminded her of one of my great-aunts), but I personally find that it is a mere (tongue-in-cheek) nod to old ladies and find it rather hip. It is from a Polish brand that was new to me and which is apparently very widespread in CEE, Reserved. I bought it at their recently opened branch at the Mall and just wandered in out of boredom. Prices were low, but quality predominantly crappy, with manmade fibers abounding. The cute pink cardigan I bought for my goddaughter from their children's collection and my own cardigan were pretty much the only pieces with good quality, made out of natural fibres. Overall, I'm not an advocate of this brand as it seems to target younger shoppers with little budget and a high affinity for polyester. Here's my jem anyway:
I'm very happy with it and also like the fact that it has a decent length. For me, it is testament to the fact that it often pays off to set foot into stores that don't look too promising at first sight!

Monday, December 23, 2013

All I Want for Christmas is...SNOW

Just a quick post to wish you all a Merry Christmas! I arrived in KLU on Saturday afternoon and it's like spring here, only with a whole lot more fog. Today, my Mum and I went skiing and managed to catch some sun and see some (artificial) snow. I wouldn't mind a modest blanket of the real stuff around our house, preferably between our house and the church in the neighbouring village when we go to midnight mass there. Other than that, no complaints and I am well equipped with both literature and food to indulge in my favourite holiday pastimes: reading and eating. On repeat.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spring in Winter

Hey all. Now that all cookies are baked, all cards written and presents procured, it seems only natural that I'm running on empty batteries. In other words, I have succumbed to some nasty virus and was feeling horribly flue-y yesterday when I dragged myself to work because of some urgent stuff. Rocket science, of course. We all know that the world might collapse if I'm not at my desk... I am taking it easy today and am determined to be in good shape for the work Christmas party tomorrow. I just wanted to share a nice picture I took on Saturday when I was still my chirpy old self. I passed a pretty tree that, combined with blue skies, would make you think it was spring if it weren't for the total absence of any foliage:
I hope you are all well.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Baking the Chilled Way

Hello, my lovely friends. As you might know, I really, REALLY enjoy baking and get into overdrive before Christmas in particular. Above, you see a photo from my annual little advent party last Sunday. In case cookies weren't enough, I decided to conjure up some cinnamon buns as well as marzipan-filled chocolate-covered dates. I was on my last business trip from Monday to Wednesday and had already finished my Christmas baking on Sunday. In other words, I can now lean back and enjoy the festive season. Cheers! Since I only exchange gifts with my parents and my godchild and her brothers and have all gifts sorted already, I really don't have anything to stress about and my only task remains writing the Christmas cards that I need to pick up from the shop tonight. Here are some tips in case you're not quite as chilled as me:
1. Do you really have to bake yourself? Do you even enjoy baking in the first place? Unless you love it and find it relaxing as I do, perhaps your mum/granny/aunt might supply you with perfect cookies in large quantities anyway. This was the case when I was growing up up as my paternal grandmother was a true pastry goddess and therefore my Mum and I never baked. I have inherited some of her recipes and swear by her Vanillekipferln and gingerbread recipes.
2. "Social baking", i.e. having a session with friends is fun, but also potentially stressful. I used to love this and the advantage is that you usually end up being really productive and can bitch about all mutual friends while you're at it, but much as I enjoyed it, I actually prefer baking on my own. Why? Well, while my kitchen is too small for more than 1 person really, I have by far the best equipment of all my friends and ended up travelling with it through Vienna, which was not the most practical. Also, preparing the dough after work, then cutting the cookies the day afterwards turns out to be more efficient for me.
3. Don't give yourself a hard time if the dough ends up taking an extended vacation rather than a an overnight stay in your fridge. In most cases, this is actually beneficial for the flavour so: whatevz!
4. You might want to consider taking shortcuts (I don't personally, but don't let that distract you) such as pre-made dough from the supermarket or baking trays with moulds. Another good tip for instant gratification is to choose recipes where you just cut the cookies with a sharp knife as opposed to with little fiddly moulds.
5. Read the recipe carefully to make sure it's not extremely time-consuming and requires 10 steps and 3 coats of glazing or some such. Unless you love the challenge and have enough time on your hands, that is.
6. Cut-out cookies are cute and there are plenty of choices, but can be rather painful if you have a huge ball of dough and a rather troublesome cutter. As a rule of thumb, the surface needs to be well floured and it helps if you quickly dip the cutter into a bit of flour as well. Working on a silicone mat or rolling the dough (in particular the more crumbly types) in a freezer bag often works wonders. Don't choose super intricate cutters that have very small segments as these a) are often a pain to get the dough out of and b) tend to burn easily, which is not what we want.
7. Go for quality rather than quantity. Now this might be obvious, but it's quite tempting to go overboard and feel you need to come up with 10+ varieties. Unless you enjoy it (see 1.) and have the time, stick to perhaps 3 recipes, but choose some that are good and above all distinctly different from each other. I know quite a few people who pride themselves of making >20 varieties, but they turn out to be essentially the same (rather unexciting) butter cookie dough in different shapes and with different glazes. Not really worth the effort, in my opinion.
8. Use your common sense and don't stick to the recipe too religiously. If you did everything by the book, but the dough still is impossibly dry and impossible to work with, just ad another egg even if the recipe just calls for the 2 you've already added. Your eggs might be smaller than the one the author was using. Personally, I reduce the sugar quantity in most recipes as I don't like baked goods too overly sweet. Don't go overboard with this, though, as we want Christmas cookies to taste indulgent, not boring or healthy.
9. Become creative at damage mitigation: your cookies are not golden brown all over, but much darker at the edges? Cover them with chocolate, sugar & lemon icing, sprinkles, whatever goes with the overall flavour best. They taste a bit bland and boring? Perhaps you can stick two together with some really good jam, lemon curd or other "glue". Your gingerbread is rock hard or your coconut macarons sticky to the touch? In the first case, put a slice of apple in the tin, making sure to cover it with parchment paper so it doesn't touch the gingerbread and make it soggy. Remove it after a few days or it will get mouldy. If cookies are too soft, leave the lid of the tin open and let them dry out for a day or two. Alternatively, you can pop them into the oven at a low temperature as well. Obviously, this only works for non-glazed varieties.
10. And if it all gets too much, you can just resort to this super-easy recipe. Good luck and feel free to share more tips in the comments!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Queen of the Glue Gun

Hello, lovely DIY kings and queens! Don't ever say again social media makes you stupid and unproductive. Ever since I saw a picture of a DIY bauble wreath in Blusherine's Instagram I knew that I needed to make my own and thankfully she had posted the source of hers as well, see here. It was not a spontaneous crush of mine, I had been toying with the idea of buying one of these guys for quite some time, but had not actually thought of making one myself. Well, here is the fruit of my labour:
 ...and with flash:
I'm pretty pleased with the result if I say so myself. I decide to go with a white and silver theme (even though I generally think gold more christmassy than silver) to go with my recently revamped bedroom which is mainly white. Good luck if you're trying to do this yourself!

Monday, December 02, 2013


If you are following me on G+ (my private account) or Instagram, you have recently been spammed with sunset pictures already. If you are not, I am subjecting you to them here for the first time:
Not bad, eh? I took all these pictures with my phone as the contrast didn't come out as well on my camera. I saw the first spectacular sunset over a "sea of clouds" as I was approaching Klagenfurt on Thursday afternoon and was actually considering stopping my car once I had exited the motorway to take some photos. Thankfully, it was only gearing up to fiery climax once I had arrived and I got an even more impressive repeat show on Friday when I took the pictures above from my balcony. No more sunsets on Saturday after it had snowed in the morning, but it really was a sight and I was not the only one impressed by it. My mum had a friend calling her from another part of town who asked if she had looked out of the window and on Thursday I saw a guy on a bridge with a tripod who was no doubt shooting better photos than I had.
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