Monday, April 30, 2012

The Japanese Diet

Anyone who has ever been to Japan will probably come back and rave about the food. So good! So well presented! So surprisingly inexpensive! (Well, mostly). I am no exception and again I've noticed that despite feeling compelled to test everything unless it's of the seafood variety I've again managed to lose (!) some weight on the trip.
Here's a pretty representative summary of the culinary highlights. 
solitary candied grape on a stick (Kamakura): very yummy
Onigiri on the train: my daily midday snack. This one is filled with konbu (seaweed), but my favourite is umeboshi (pickled plum). I pretty much had 2 onigiri every day and have been craving them since coming back.
Okonomiyaki in Kyoto. The one I ordered would have had squid in it and since the menu raved about their special leek I asked if I could have it with leek instead of squid, expecting some token rolls of chopped leek. As you can see from the picture, I got a year's worth of leek...
Our vegetarian meal in Akita arrived on an individual gas burner
One local speciality in Nagoya is their kishimen noodles, which are a bit like tagliatelle. I donated the tempura shrimp to MM, but otherwise, it was really tasty
sakura mochi in Kamakura. It was the best of the three we tried in the course of our trip

On our last night in Tokyo we finally had sushi. It does not look any different from the one you would get in Vienna, but was really tasty
Our only fast-food adventure at Mosburger, a Japanese chain. Contrary to e.g. McDonald's, they serve your food in "real" tableware if you eat in.
tradititional matcha with Japanese sweet
matcha latte at Starbucks upon arrival at Narita Airport
Cuteness overkill at the Hello Kitty! Café in Himeji

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lost in Translation

No trip to Japan would be complete without linguistic oddities. Well, predictably enough, I've found some gems, some of which are particularly amusing to native speakers of German, such as this sign for "Poporoad":

Or the name of Akita's local football heroes, "Blaublitz" aka Braubritzu

Maybe it's just me lacking in imagination, but while I've come across Mehrzweckhalle for example, I'm not exactly sure what a "Mehrzwecktoilette" is supposed to mean. Nor, what "Stomaträger" are for that matter...

Would you drink something called "Pungency"?!? Myself, I wasn't too tempted:

T-shirts with bizarre foreign language word fragments are still all the rage, such as the one with the intriguing  message "anal peace". Well, I'm all for it myself, you know, but still not so sure I'd want to proclaim it on my garments...

Possibly, he wanted the t-shirt with "soup makes happy for you", but they didn't have it in his size?

I love the "it's-the-thought-that-counts" attitude of whoever put that on their sign:

I was very tempted to try the peach juice with hyaluronic acid, by the way, which cost just the same as my "royal tea", but then decided against it

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sunny Friday (With Outfit of the Day)

 Friday! My second-favourite day of the week. I made sure to walk to work via Heldenplatz to check out the lilac bushes in full bloom there. What cherry-blossoms are to Tokyo (and Kyoto, Osaka, etc.), lilac is to Vienna. Unlike Sakura trees, lilac comes with the added bonus of an almost over-powering smell (in a good way). Just seeing all the lilac offset by the lush spring green puts me in a good mood:

I'm wearing a "feelgood" outfit today as well, complete with a pair of trousers I bought last night:
 Top: ZARA (€9 bargain). Rolled-up cargo pants: ESPRIT (€ 39, reduced)

Brooch: Sydney, rose-gold and white watch: Michael Kors

Shoes: bought in Sydney, socks (it's not that hot yet in the morning): Wolford

Oh, and my beloved Neverfull bag has also woken up from hibernation.  

Speaking of bags: bonus mood-enhancer of the day: the Longchamp Le Pliage bag (L) I ordered from the Lufthansa World Shop on Tuesday night arrived today. I love exchanging my frequent flier miles for bags!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Window Seat

Before I annoy you with more pictures from Japan (which need more time for editing than I have right now), a few words on flying. I don't know about you, but I'm definitely an aisle seat type of passenger. Apart from the fact that isle seats are considered "safer" in case of an emergency as you have quicker an easier access to exits, I like as much leg and elbow space I can possibly get in Economy class and having a notoriously week bladder, I hate having to disturb/wake up the person in the aisle seat if I want to go to the toilet. Sure enough, on my return flight from Tokyo I had no such luck as on the outbound one, where I had a row of three seats all for myself and could actually stretch out across the three of them, and the Japanese man in the aisle seat next to me was your typical power-napper: asleep about two seconds after sitting down. I think it's psychological: knowing that I'm going to be wedged in next to Mr. Narcoleptic for 11 hours just makes me want to pee even more. I digress...

Earlier this week I had to travel to Ljubljana at short notice. I had never travelled there by plane and in fact the idea is slightly ridiculous for someone who grew up so close to the Slovenian border. The flight is more or less just ascending and descending and the plane flies at the altitude of a sightseeing flight. On the way there I automatically chose an aisle seat, not realising that the self-check-in machine also printed out the boarding pass for the return flight, which was less than 24 hours away. When I boarded my 07:30 flight yesterday morning, the weather was bright and the snow-capped mountains surrounding the airport were glistening in the sunlight. I was actually looking forward to having the A seat by the window. Sure enough, I had my nose pressed to the window for the whole short flight and couldn't stop snapping pictures.

 Note to self: try to grab the window seat on short flights across mountain ranges.
Fields are not bad either, though...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pretty in Pink

I'm back from Japan and it was as wonderful as the first time. Needless to say, the magic and novelty of the first visit could not be repeated, but otherwise, I enjoyed this trip just as much and can't wait to get back and see more of the country.

As assumed, this week is going to be busy and I'll actually be in Ljubljana on business tomorrow. Even though I'm not exactly keen on returning to Vienna airport that soon, I'm looking forward to SLO, where I haven't been in quite some time.

I'll upload more photos here soon, so this is just another teaser (and for some reason the picture in the last post has turned a strange "Andy Warholesque" colour, let's see if it will revert back to normal). The underlying theme is - surprise! - cherry blossoms.

Be prepared for more sakura photos, also of the pinker variety, but here's one specimen:
We also had plenty of the stuff in edible form, sakura mochi to be precise. The combination of bean-paste, pound mochi rice, subtle sakura flavour and the salty leaves is really delicious.
I came to Japan with one big bag and returned with two. This was planned actually and I had put one into the other, so no suitcase purchase due to wheel-failure, nor shopping extravaganzas this time. Apart from way too many clothes I had packed as usual, they were filled with souvenirs for my loved ones and, erm, several for yours truly, as well. Hey, someone has to help boost the ailing Japanese economy and it could just as well be me. 

Well, I suppose it's true that girls love pink. This one certainly was lured in buying everything with sakura leaves on it...
Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Konnichiwa from Akita

Just a quick hello from our last stop before the final weekend in Tokyo. There's complimentary Wifi in our room here for a change, so I'm making good use of it. As my tablet doesn't have an SD slot I grabbed the next best things from my biiiig pile of purchases and took a picture with said tablet for purely illustrative get my point.
Today afternoon we went to Kakunodate, a place famous for its beautiful cherry trees. Except for the fact that it turned out to be the only stop on our trip where the sakura trees are not even remotely in bloom and there are huge heaps of snow in the shade...
I've enjoyed every single day and can't wait to get back. To Japan, that is. Predictably enough I've taken a tonne of pictures. Something tells me that next week will be very busy indeed so please bear with me.
I've juxt checked the weather forecast for Tokyo: rain. Uh,uh...looks like there is no avoiding the shops then.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sakura, Sakura...

A quick "hi" from Japan (Odawara, to be precise) where I've just decided to splurge out on 2 hours for wireless acess. This time, the hotels I'm staying in don't believe in free internet access and with my tablet the paid LAN is of no use either. Well, this is only the second hotel, so it could get better.

I need not have worried about missing the cherry blossoms: sakura trees are exploding in pale pink blossoms at every corner and I'm already becoming quite blasé about it.

I'm sitting in the lobby of the fancy Odawara Hilton (Hiruton) Resort right now, listening to horrible muzak and inhaling the rather awful corporate scent...but the spa area with onsen, traditional hot spring bath is beckoning, so I'm not complaining.


Monday, April 09, 2012


When you are reading this, I'll hopefully have arrived safe and sound in Tokyo. This time, I've not packed a computer and unless I a) feel the desire to do so and b) find a way how to, I won't post from my tablet or phone, which means you'll just have to wait until I've come back (April 22) and recovered from my jetlag before you see another post here. Torture, I know...

As a small consolation prize and in honour of my "Project Cherry Blossom" here's a picture of the apricot tree in my parents' garden:
As my Mum put it, there was no need for me to travel all the way to Japan to experience pretty trees in bloom. And yet.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

My Easter Bunny Likes Art

This is the first time I'm spending Easter without my parents. The year I studied in Dublin, they came to visit me together with my maternal granny. That year, I was suffering from the side-effects of the nasty stomach bug my granny had imported and Osterschinken was the last thing on my mind, but this time, I suddenly got a craving for the traditional Carinthian Easter meal of ham with lots of grated horseradish and hard-boiled eggs. Well, I guess I'll make up for the horseradish with lots of real wasabi soon...

Thanks to my Mum, this 40-year-old kid was not without Easter pressies, though. When I was in KLU, she gave me a pretty necklace she recently made. It looks like fabric, but in fact is painted balls of pressed cotton-wool.
I also got a painting/collage which I decided to open last night:
It is called "Summer" (photo and acryllic paint) and is by Zorka Loiskandl Weiss, a friend of our family, who studied in the same master class at university as my Dad did.

I bought the token chocolate egg for myself, having told my Mum I did not want any chocolate bunnies this year (and opted for the scarf instead).

Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate it today!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Hello, Dotty!

When I was in KLU, my Mum - undisputed Queen of innovative textile recycling - asked me to take a look at some clothes she had dragged out from "the archives" and try them on for size, because they were in fashion again. Well, their fabric at least, if not the cut. Take this polka-dotted silk blouse which my late great-aunt, a dressmaker, sewed for me together with a beige suit when I was at university. These days, the size would be labelled XXL. It wasn't that I was considerably fatter back then, it was just that everything was worn much baggier:

Doesn't it turn me into a frumpy granny instantly? I do love the fabric, though, so Mum is going to take the parts of the blouse apart and turn it into a tighter-fitting one.

I did love the skirts, which both fit me. We couldn't really remember/agree if it was Mum or me who wore them first time round. I also really like the sleeveless cotton blouse with eyelet embroidery, a vintage piece from Mum's wardrobe, and intend to wear it this summer:

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Other People's Taste

Some weeks ago, I was at the Wohnen & Interieur fair in Vienna. My intention was to find a stylish yet comfortable chair to read in for my living room. With one so-so exception, all the chairs I saw were at best ugly, but mostly horrendous. Overall, the furniture was quite...interesting, but I'm assuming it must cater to someone's taste unless all the exhibitors produce just for the sake of art.

Recently I stumbled over the pictures I took more or less discreetly with my phone. Check out this Dallas-style leather sofa with inbuilt drinks tray. Yay, baby!
In fact, there must be quite some market for "champagne-furniture", judging from this granite (!) table. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw this was: tombstone...
You might have been wondering just what it is that your house or flat is lacking. Don't twist your mind any longer, the answer is right here: a transparent bathtub with prescious wood and stone:
How about a charming little sofa table held up by a grizzly bear in (faux?) brass:
Which one of these gems is your favourite?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


In general, Austria is a pretty developed country and it's not that we're really lacking any modern conveniences or don't have access to the lastest technical gadgets. However, when it comes to certain niche products or brands that simply don't deliver to our small banana republic, all you can do is be jealous of the priviledged members of the gated community and wait until you're graciously sent an invite do their members-only club.

Before you're wondering what sophisticated product this long intro was about, let me manage your expectations and remind you that I'm a superficial person, me. What I am talking about is beauty boxes. If you have no idea what those are, this video might give you a better idea. Basically, it is a monthly subscription to a parcel filled with beauty products both of mainstream and niche brands that typically comes in a pretty box of the kind that makes you feel guilty for all the packaging, if you're a militant paper recycling-fiend like I am.

As a regular reader of beauty/shopping blogs and addict of make-up related videos on YouTube, I've known about Birchbox and its sisters for quite some time and was annoyed that none of them delivered to Austria. When I returned to Vienna after my three months in Sydney, I was thrilled to find out that one of those, Glossybox , had made it to Austria in the meantime and immediately subscribed. I don't know what took them so long, but my first box was the March edition and it arrived in the very last week of the month. Apart from the contents, I was really looking forward to the "opening ceremony", too. Come on, who doesn't like getting parcels?
Dusty pink and black - not leaving out any girly clichés, are we?
I was not disappointed: the box was full of really useful stuff:
I gave the St. Charles bath salts to my mum as I'm not particularly fond of the scent of lily of the valley, but I would have found it bearable enough for a soak as well.

I'm already looking forward to April's goodies, but don't worry, I won't bore you with each month's box from now on.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

No Fun in the Sun

I am writing this on Monday afternoon at my parents house. The sun is shining outside and it's more than tempting to retreat into the garden with my Kindle.

However, my parents' GP whom I saw at their insistence told me to shun it. Apparently I've caught a gastric bug one of whose side-effects is palpitations (mine were of the rather scary sort that keep you awake at night and make you think you'd just finished a marathon) that you want to make go away asap in order not to suffer from chronic myocarditis or other heart problems. He made me promise him to take it easy and not get it in my head to get back to work too soon as he has patients who did just that and landed themselves those chronic conditions. He also told me to stay away from the sun as apparently viruses are "boosted" by the sun, whereas bacteria are killed by it. You live and learn! On Saturday, I inadvertedly did the wrong thing and sat in the garden for hours, followed by one of the worst nights in my life. Lesson learned!

The other lesson is not to drag myself into work under all circumstances. I felt like shit last Thursday, but still didn't stay at home. There were many days this winter when I didn't feel well, but didn't want to let the team down and resorted to my magic helpers (Vick's First Defense and LemSip) in order to nip it in the bud.

I was dead set on returning to Vienna on Sunday night as planned, but my parents, who were appalled by my zombie looks at the breakfast table eventually convinced me that the World wouldn't end if I failed to show up at the Firm on Monday. As my boss helpfully let me know in an e-mail it is "bad timing" (whenever is it "good timing" for employees to fall sick, unless it's a holiday, I wonder?) and I spent half the weekend working in order not to burden my colleagues with too much, but as this is my first ever sick-leave he might actually notice that it does make a difference when I'm OOO.

I might be lacking sunshine and its benefits, but I've discovered an alternative "hot-water bottle": place a Macbook Pro on your stomach and you'll have all the heat that you need...

Monday, April 02, 2012

Easter Egg

I am sick, but lucky for you, I did my "homework" on Saturday and drafted some posts, such as this one:

I like reflections, shadows, trompe l'oeil effects in mundane things and love taking pictures of it. Such as my reflection in one of the granite pillars that frame KLU's Neuer Platz, which I found exceptional both because of the fish-eye view of the town hall and square behind me and the fact that it looked like a decorated easter egg:
click to enlarge
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