Saturday, November 29, 2014

Strings Attached

When I was recently picking my brain about what songs to add to a playlist for a work event I stumbled across this song that has been in my YouTube playlist forever. I've been listening to it pretty much in endless loop ever since as it sums up my current mood so well. I also really love this live recording:

Apart from the fact that I have always been partial to arrangements that combine classic and modern (electronic) instruments, I have spent WAY too much time in the past months trying to decipher what could possibly go on in the brain of a certain someone...let's call him the Renaissance Man, because of his numerous talents (manners and empathy not being among them), who also happens to play the cello like a God.
Perhaps one of the greatest learnings (hopefully!) of 2014 is that it is simply not possible to understand some people and even less make them happy and "normal" on your terms if these happen to be a lot of love and attention. Energy spent in vain that should better be channelled to things like e.g. learning a musical instrument yourself. Not even joking...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I have mentioned before that I am quite partial to certain (warm) Starbucks beverages. This morning I logged into my Starbucks Rewards account to see how many stars I had accrued (1 visit=1star). Turns out that this year, I was there 95 times. Ooops. We stop to remember that the year has 365 days and I travel a lot (to Starbucks-deprived countries...where I actually like checking out other brands). Ahem. This is not counting the handful of times when I forgot my card or went to a Starbucks overseas. I guess you could a) say that I am addicted and b) I could have bought a VERY NICE handbag for the money I left there. Time to upgrade my golden loyalty card to a platinum one, methinks!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hipster Breakfast

Every self-respecting blogger has to post at least one recipe with chia seeds in 2014. It's a law. Sort of. Before the year is over, let me fulfil my duty.
Well, to be honest, I am late on this bandwagon and first bought the trendy seeds in August (on a daytrip to Ljubljana with my mum) since it was hard to find them in Vienna. I don't have an organic supermarket nearby and couldn't find it in any "normal" supermarkets or places like DM. Recently, my local BILLA supermarket has added it to its shelves even, definite sign that it is mainstream now.
In any case, I love gooey and pulpy breakfasts (very much unlike my Mum who despises them) and have devised a really good and quick breakfast. Since I need to boil water in the kettle for my French press-type morning coffee anyway and I don't really need milk in this, it is a superquick solution. You can of course add milk or a vegan milk substitute as well. Just make sure to add it hot. I have tried preparing chia pudding with cold milk, but much prefer this version and also like the texture that the shredded oats add, since the end result is less slimy.

Quick Chia Oat Pudding with Banana
1 small portion (feel free to double/tripe...etc.)

1.5 tablespoons of chia seeds
2 tablespoons of ground oats (Hafermark)
4,5 slices of ripe banana (I used frozen slices)
cinnamon and honey to taste
boiled water
Put the chia seeds and oats in a heat-resistant bowl and add enough hot water to cover everything and allow for the soaking magic. Don't make soup, but don't be too stingy with the water either. Add the banana slices, stir with a fork and mash the banana a bit. Leave to sit for 15 minutes (get dressed or put on your make-up in the meantime to maximise time...), then return to find that like magic, the water has been soaked up and the seeds have magically doubled in volume. Add cinnamon and honey to taste. Enjoy!

Note: You may leave it to soak longer of course or even prepare it the night before (let it cool and leave it in the fridge then), use other spices or fruit. The sky is the limit. I will try it with matcha next.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Frizerski Salon

There are certain things I really wish were more affordable in Vienna. Blow-dries for under € 20 are top of my list in fact. Now that I've worked with an Eastern/Central European team for 2.5 years, I am fascinated by how impeccably coiffed my female colleagues always are. There are ladies from Budapest, Bukarest and Zagreb who, when in their home countries, never wash and blow-dry their own hair at home, but always have it done at a salon for an average of €10. I am downright jealous! When I once had my arm in a bandage and couldn't take a proper shower, I went to a cheapish hairdresser chain in Vienna and paid €28 (€30 with a tip) for a wash and blow-dry. This is the normal rate for long hair in Austria (Vienna at least) and I find it bloody expensive. 
I have begun to make the most of my business trips and been to a super-fancy salon in Sofia 3 times now to have my hair cut and dried nicely for a mere €20 and also had just a blow-dry twice in Zagreb for about €12.
I see great potential for this in Vienna and if I were inclined to wash and dry people's hair would jump at the business opportunity myself. If you know of any salons offering this service at an affordable rate, let me know!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nouveau Riche

Do you ever overhear conversations that make you cringe or watch people you cannot help but feel ashamed for? Well, it has certainly happened to me several times and yesterday morning I witnessed a prime example. The scene: VIE airport, Duty Free Area in the old part. I was on my way to passport control near the D-gates and decided to check out the new LE collection (some seriously cool stuff, by the way!) in the new Longchamp store on the way. As I was talking to the nice shop assistant, a 40-ish guy (Austrian, judging from his accent) comes in with a lady in tow and declares without any preliminary niceties, ignoring the fact that the sales assistant was dealing with another customer, me, "We have 3 minutes to spare and need a big black bag!" To his (apparently foreign as he talked to her in a mild "Me Tarzan, you Jane" way) girlfriend: "Honey, pick anything you like". The shop assistant pointed him towards the black bags and suggested they take a look there, to which he replied "Listen, if you don't want to assist us here, we're going to spend our money elsewhere. It may cost up to 1000 Euros." The girlfriend, visibly embarrassed said something to the effect that she didn't think they'd find anything there, which he could clearly sympathise with, "I know, it's not Louis Vuitton, it's [reading the brand name]...Long...chaaaaamp". Having said that, they made their exits and the shop assistant and I exchanged a look with raised eyebrows. "I need a coffee", she said. 
A few minutes afterwards I found them walking at a normal pace (so much about "having 3 minutes") and they seemed to be still on the subject of bags. My guess is that she told him she disapproved of his behaviour in the store. He insisted "A lady needs to have a proper handbag". Well, don't get me wrong, this is a sentence I long for the man at my side to say and I certainly wouldn't object to a guy volunteering to buy me an expensive designer bag or two, but this specimen was so obnoxious and embarrassing I had to resist the urge to punch him. I certainly hope for the lady that he is a sex god or has some other qualities to make up for his attitude...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Missed it!

Duh! How come I missed this year's blogoversary? So, 5 days later: let's acknowledge that this little blog is now 9(!) years old. Wow. I certainly will make sure to duly commemorate next year's 10th anniversary. A layout overhaul might be in order, but I don't want to loose my archive since it helps my aging brain and I love to be able to search posts to find out when exactly I was in a certain city, baked a certain cake or met certain people.
When I started this blog I was in a completely different stage of my life and yet it doesn't feel as if so much time has passed. Back then, I could not have imagined that in a few years almost everyone would own phones that were so much better and "smarter" than the computer I was writing my first post on, nor that I would spend way too much time online and actually think back with nostalgia of all the books I read when I still worked at Coma HQ. Seems like a simple thing and yet like a lifetime away...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Who wants to be a millionaire

...should come to Belarus. I am currently on a business trip in Minsk and feeling very rich indeed:
The 400K of Belarus Roubles amount to less than EUR 30, just in case you were wondering. Other than that, I have been pleasantly surprised. Knowing that I would probably get to see less of the city than on most of my business destinations and that my local colleague would have everything organised, such as pickup from the airport, I have rarely been so badly prepared in the sense of not doing any "homework". I pretty much came with a neutral, or open mind and didn't have any expectations, really. I sort of expected people to walk around wearing fur coats and fur hats, but it is either not cold enough or Belarusians are not in the habit of doing so. 
My impressions: friendly people, wide boulevards, good food. The old town is clean and like Warsaw has been rebuilt after being bombed in WW2.
It obviously helps if you are hosted by someone who is a native speaker of Russian and has lived in Minsk for 3 years. My colleague took us to some cool places and I can wholeheartedly recommend them. For local food and a more rustic feel (to a soundtrack of A-HA and Adriano Celentano...) with lots of meat: Staromestny Pivovar. For a nice ambience and good French cuisine (and drinks) at almost Parisian prices: Café de Paris. For a cool hipster atmosphere: Cherdak (which apparently means "attic" and is housed in...taDAH... an attic).
From my limited experience I can say that service is a bit hit-and-miss with some communist "speed" (or rather the complete lack therof) being the USP of our otherwise very nice hotel (loved he pool!), the Renaissance Hotel. Food in their "Arborea" restaurant was really excellent, both lunch and breakfast (priced at a hefty USD 40 for the buffet), but service was so fricking L-E-T-H-A-R-G-I-C we were joking that they obviously represented the militant wing of the slow food movement. We had to cancel an order twice as the food didn't arrive on time for our meetings. Staff at the restaurant and bar could teach the notoriously slow checkout people at French supermarkets a lesson in slowness...
I shall probably be back in a few months and am really looking forward to seeing more of Minsk. Oh, and Kazakhstan might be on the agenda soon, too. Watch out, Borat!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Now that I have a crunchy "carrot" of 3 blissful months of out-of-office dangling in front of me, I am already in the planning phase and know that I want to spend September, the last month before I am back in the office, travelling. I want to go to Japan and Australia and have started looking into multi-leg flights. When leafing through my passport yesterday as I prepared for immigration in Minsk, I discovered that my visa for Australia was still valid until September 13, 2015 and this catapulted me in tentative planning mode.

If you have any recommendations, i.e. experience regarding trustworthy booking or price comparison engines, do let me know. Not including domestic flights (to Brisbane and Okinawa respectively), my itinerary might look something like the one below, but should ideally remain below the EUR 3,000 mark:
I wouldn't mind a stopover in Taipei either, but need to look into convenient connections. Since I have never been to Bangkok (other than its airport on my last flight to Sydney), I thought a quick city break there might make sense. I'm also open for suggestions on cool places in Asia, but don't want to pack this itinerary too much as stress is the last thing I am looking for. In any case, I am extremely excited!

Saturday, November 01, 2014


I was on the German island of Sylt from Tuesday to Thursday this week with my team from work and I truly loved it. We are all spoilt brats who are used to staying in 5* hotels (at least on business trips), but this time, we stayed in a youth hostel. Mind you, the breakfast there was better by far than in any 4* hotel I have ever stayed in London and everything was nice and clean. The beautiful scenery together with shared washrooms took me back to many happy camping holidays with my parents in the 1980s, in particular a road-trip to Scandinavia when I was about 10. I still have very vivid memories of climbing rocks, picking blueberries, being on a lot of car-ferry-rides and always feeling a little cold. I felt happy and content these 2 days and was very wistful indeed that we had to leave again so soon. The "official" part was minimal (I do have the best boss in the world, after all!), you had to buy a ticket for 4-hour-WiFi-access and I didn't switch on data-roaming on my phone, and so it felt like a carefree school-trip ca 1987 with your favourite classmates. For some reason, I had always thought the island to be "snobby" and elitist (and our manager described it as "the German Hamptons" after all), but even at the famous Sansibar where we ate twice, staff was extremely friendly and portions huge. Overall, a very friendly and laid-back atmosphere wherever we went and a true feeling of being able to recharge your batteries. I wish I could have taken a picture of the stars at night, visible in all their glory due to the absence of urban light-pollution. Breathtaking! To make up for it, here are some equally impressive photos of sunset and sunrise near our hostel:
You're welcome.
Regardless of the water temperature (not too cold, actually) I had to dip my feet into the North Sea...
I don't know if and when I will be back, but I certainly hope to return soon.
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