Monday, January 26, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 4

1.Visiting a new country, Kazakhstan, (see also previous post).
2. Getting the nicest, most heart-warming feedback for a talk and Q&A ever by students of KIMEP University, some of which told us we had "changed their lives", no less.
3. Being back in Istanbul where I hadn't been for 10 years, even if it was only IST airport.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kazakhstan, anyone?

Earlier today, I came back from a business trip to Almaty, KZ. It was my first time in Kazakhstan and I have to admit that for me, that country was a blank space on the map. If I had been able to locate it on a map, ahem. Geographic genius, I am not. Thus I was surprised it is quite far away. There are no direct flights from Vienna and I took the route via Istanbul because of the better connection versus Frankfurt. From IST it is another 5 hours to ALA and the time zone is CET+5 there.
So what are your association with Kazakhstan? APART from Borat, I meant! See. I'm not saying that 4 days in Almaty have made me an expert on the country, I just wanted to share a few snippets, illustrated by smartphone photos of varying quality. Here goes. On the first night, I got to tick off the horse meat that Central Asia is famous for. Unlike my manager and a female colleague who love horses it did not gross me out at all and it tastes like beef. Here is a cold starter and horse in sausage form. I preferred the cuts (minus the fat, which I didn't eat), but in general I am not a fan of cold meats. We just ordered this to share. I also took a sip of a colleague's fermented camel milk, which tasted not much different from Turkish ayran. Speaking of which, this word is a false friend: when it says "ayran" on the menu in KZ, this means just yoghurt, not a yoghurt-based drink:
Our hotel was very fancy indeed. The name Ritz-Carlton alone evoked images of decadence. Hotel reception is on the 30th floor and rooms are on floors 21-29. Puttin on the Ritz! In any case, the views were breathtaking. Here you can see the mountains and ski slopes very close by. Two colleagues went skiing this morning and I was dead jealous, but if I had joined them I would have returned to Vienna on Sunday afternoon. Since I am flying to Sofia on Monday and wanted a bit of time to recharge at home and re-acquaint myself with the European time zone, I decided against it. Next time, though, I am SO packing my ski clothes!
This is the view of the traffic:
We also ate at the Ritz a few times and the food was really excellent. Here's a shot of our dessert plates yesterday. I suppose you can guess which one is mine:
The food in the main restaurant where this picture was taken was already on the very pricy side, but the prices in the steakhouse on the 28th floor could seriously make you bankrupt. To give you an idea: one person of our party had steak (as you might well do at a steakhouse) and it cost €70 (with side dishes).
On Wednesday between meetings we went to a viewpoint to take a look at the city from even further above and enjoy the fresh snow at the other side:
On Thursday night, we took the fairly new metro for one stop out of curiosity. This particular station was decorated with children's drawings depicting the metro. Many of them were very good, too!
I wish I could have explored other areas more since the hood surrounding our hotel did oil oligarch clichés proud. This is a picture of EAST, the sushi restaurant in the mall next door. More about this mall and...erm...purchases there in a separate post:
They have a new Malaysian chef who (explained to us himself that he) just redesigned the menu and the food was as tasty as the atmosphere was stylish. So, you can have it all: horsemeat and fancy sushi.
The people we met were all super friendly and mostly spoke very good English, unlike in e.g. Minsk where I was last November. Despite that fact, learning Russian is on my agenda for this year.
The only thing I really didn't like were seriously overheated rooms in most places we went. At one meeting where I was presenting I sat next to the radiator and seriously thought I would pass out any minute. My colleague felt the same and asked if we could open the window, but after literally 10 seconds some people began to theatrically put on their cardigans or coats so we took the hint. I had expected it to be very cold outside (which it wasn't at all), but I was not prepared for rooms at sauna temperature. I guess oil is cheap in KZ so you get used to overheating homes and offices.
Other than that: very impressed and looking forward to my next visit (probably in April).

Monday, January 19, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 3

1. Inspiring the Empress to start her own - offline - version of a Things-that-Made-Me-Happy-Last-Week list!
2. Successfully organising a 2-day event in Budapest for 40 participants: great vibe, great fun, great feedback from participants.
3. First finding my beautiful ball robe (see previous) post for a steal, then learning that my trip to Riga got cancelled so I won't have to rush the day of the ball and could even make an appointment at the hairdresser, and finally stumbling upon matching heels on sale.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Belle of the Ball or: A Lesson in Shopping Efficiency

The last time I attended a "fancy" ball at Hofburg (THE prime location for balls in Vienna if you don't count the State Opera, venue of the famous Opera Ball) I was still a student and you were not expected to wear a long ball gown. Times have changed and when I spontaneously decided to join a group of friends for a ball in February last Saturday, I realised there were two little catches. A) the fact that I am returning from Riga at 18:15 (if all goes according to plan) that night and b) that I don't own a long ball gown and it is the worst time to start shopping for one, it already being peak ball season. In any case, I decided not to waste any time in view of the fact that I will be on business trips more or less non-stop until then. Well, on Monday, I wanted to quickly pop into Peek & Cloppenburg only to find out that they were closed for stock-taking that day. Eeeek! Plan B was Monsoon and right enough they had 1 dress left in my size for 70% off. What can I say...the shoe erm, dress fit and for EUR 84 I am now in possession of a really nice dress that also is remarkably crease-free. I really like it and am looking forward to wearing it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 2

1. I had a great time going out with the girls again, on Thursday night taking silly selfies in the Volksgarten toilet, see (deliberately) blurry pic above.
2. I got to wear my super hot (IMHO) Mango overall for the first time at that same event.
3. I spontaneously decided to join friends for a ball at Hofburg (not having been to a fancy ball for decades, literally!), never mind the fact that I will be arriving from Riga that evening.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Series: Things that Made Me Happy Last Week: Week 1

I'm the one in the mirror...
Because I'm a certified Master Moaner and often get sucked into my First World Problems big time, I thought it might be good (for me) to reflect on the good things that happen in my life and look back on the past week, naming 3 things that made me particularly happy and that I am grateful for. Easy and manageable as a series as well. So, first week of January:
  1. I went skiing and ice-skating 
  2. I saw some of my favourite people (who live abroad) last Saturday
  3. The Gazelle gave birth to her beautiful second daughter

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

New Year, blank slate.
I already hinted at not everything having been picture-perfect last year (is it ever?), but as the saying goes, every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day. The same applies to years, obviously, so here's a little recap, starting with the Good:
  • I once more realised that I have great friends and colleagues (many of them actually belong to both categories) who cheer me up and don't stop offering advice they know I will ignore anyway...
  • I got to travel to amazing places last year including making my dream come true to swim in the Marina Bay Sand's infinity pool in Singapore. One item ticked off my bucket list!
  • I went out (dancing) a lot with an awesome gang of girls, including my favourite cousin, Chiquita. The two of us can't quite decide who is whose "charity project", but we love one another all the same. 
  • As a not entirely unwelcome side-effect of being lovesick (I'm the opposite of an emotional eater) I lost the surplus fat I had accumulated over the previous 2+ years and find my almost-43-year-old body damn hot for a lazy no-sports type of girl, if I may say so myself. 
  • As a "by-product" of online dating I made 2 (platonic) friends I am grateful to have met and whose paths I would not have crossed otherwise. 
  • I really enjoyed the positive vibe on Instagram and even met one lovely lady who happens to live in my neighbourhood in person.
The Bad:
  • I failed miserably at spending less time online. Shame on me!
  • If you don't count baking, I was extremely un-productive on the creative DIY front in the past year.
  • I did not learn any new skills or languages, sometimes fearing my brain was about to atrophy.
  • I read fewer books than ever, constantly struggling to catch up with my magazine backlog while buying even more mags.
  • I really bought too much sh** in a retail therapy kind of way. Not good.
  • I lost about a month of last year obsessively staring at my phone. And that's probably an understatement.
The Ugly:
  • I was deceived (really, really badly) by somebody I liked and admired a lot. It still hurts
  • I wasted way too much time brooding over irrelevant statements and actions by insecure and rude guys whose judgement made me question myself. Hopefully never again.
  • I once more learnt the hard way that you should choose your confidantes and allies wisely. Time to remember it once and for all!
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