Friday, September 30, 2016

A culinary invitation to visit Sicily

I am almost convinced that I should visit Sicily soon and in the last months I've read a couple of good books about the food, culture and travel opportunities in this part of Italy, but a short reminder is just another incentive to keep up with my bucket-list. 
In Etna's Shadow is a book that covers the personal experience of the writer of discovering the Eastern part of Sicily through the everyday life interactions, particularly the food habits. Although there are a couple of recipes shares, this book is not a cookbook, but rather an introduction to the culture and a collection of short stories about foods and vegetables and fruits too. You can read it as a culinary adventure and an incentive for wanderlust and this angle helps to appreciate the book more than expecting it to correspond to a specific frame.
'Destructive, yet nurturing, Etna's fertile soils support vineyards, fruit orchards, and citrus groves, in addition to fields of artichokes, what and strawberries'. The pictures amplify the feeling of wanderlust and the desire to take the first plane until you land in one of those little villages portrayed in the book. It has also a lot of useful information about how to find the best blood oranges, how to pick, clean and cook caper and some interesting cheese histories.
A reading recommendation for your travel planning weekend!
Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

Forever elegance by Diane von Furstenberg

In a fashion world predominated by extravagance and screamed-out loud fashion statements, Diane von Furstenberg remains a particular elegant voice, not only as a person, but also through her creations. The creator of the iconic wrap dress, she remains a voice of authority, without anything strident or without making any effort to confirm her message. She succeeds because she is genuine, modest and creative. Every new collection is a new statement for pure elegance, that kind of elegance you are rather born with, instead of trying to attach to your body through glittering and plastic surgery.
At the simple yet elegant store of Diane von Furstenberg in the KaDeWe in Berlin, I recently discovered an interesting collection of long sleeve lace dresses that I instantly fell in love with. They are long enough to fall around knees and with an elegant, simple and modest collar cut. The variants, preferably for evenings and for special occasions, are available in colours for all tastes: from exuberant pink to elegant black. I am personally for the ultra-marine, just to forget how much would love to wear the exuberant pink. At least once. In both cases you can play a lot with the accessories, with the condition to keep it simple. A more colourful bag and high heels are mean to create an unforgettable impression. Like everything this fashion designer creates.

Discovering the mysterious Basque cuisine

'Cooking is a perfect vocation for people who like to find and make connections' says the author of this exquisite Basque Book, and based on my experience, I particularly agree with. Food brought a lot of new friends and happy connections into my life, and helped me to start a journey of tastes and colours that I hardly imagined less than ten years ago. 
The Basque Book is first and foremost about a cuisine whose history and menu we easily ignore. After starting to read the book I tried to think about one single Basque restaurant I know in Europe, particularly in Germany or France or Switzerland. Nothing by far, and I am usually quite in my own element when it comes to remember unique food memories. 
The recipes, organised in chapter dedicated to main ingredients or cooking methods - Fish, Eggs, Stews, Vegetables - are the usual meal served at the Txikito restaurant in NYC. There are 114 recipes, based on 14 years of daily cooking experience, of a Basque chef and his Jewish-Argentinian wife. The ingredients are basically simple, but combined in infinitely delicious way. The success is a matter of practise: 'If you know how to pitch out good raw ingredients, you can cook Basque food'. The good news: it is not a highly technical cuisine, so all you need is to be in the right environment to learn the right moves and taste matches. Another good news: 'Basque food makes you a better cook. It teaches you to respect ingredients, embracing and amplifying their natural flavors'. 
More than a way of eating, Basque cuisine is also a high-end identity matter: 'Cooking is very much its own language and by maintaining their culinary traditions, the Basques kept alive a food-driven lexicon, assured many Basque words lived on even for urban Basques'. At the end of the book, an extensive lexicon is provided in order to offer to the reader the proper explanations for the terms  and ingredients used. For instance, did you know that the Basque version of tapas is pintxos bar?
The recipes presented can be easily organised in variants of menus to be served all round the week. Before the reader is introduced to the recipes as such, there are specific explanations given about ingredients such as salt - how to used, how much and why, often in combination with oils for various preserves too, how to develop your art of mayonnaise - if you have any, as I am a complete illiterate in this respect - or how to properly prepare the sweet onions 'the foundation of all the Basque mother sauces'.
Shortly, it is a book worth a read, interesting not only as a cookbook, but for the entire anthropological and historical approach. 
Disclaimer: Book offered by the editor in exchange of an honest review

Fashion inspiration from Ted Baker

It is not very easy to find high-end quality British fashion in Berlin. There are many local labels, and the sport and casual trends abund, but sometimes I am more interested to find some extraordinary outfits whose main quality is the modest appearance, and the quality and stylish adornments.
Ted Baker is one of my favourite brands in this respect. Although I can find everything I want online and order it to my Berlin apartment, there is a certain feeling of the texture and a visual encounter that I always miss when it comes to online shopping for clothes or shoes. At the KaDeWe store in the Western side of Berlin, there is a Ted Baker store, where I was able to browse the latest collections and find inspiration for my next black dress. 
The combination between beautiful big butterflies around the collar makes the dress an elegant and stylish outfit, without being too sophisticated. With a long sleeves t-shirt or silk shirt, light blue, it makes a perfect match for the coming holidays. It is elegant all round the day and can be embelished with some simple pearl earrings or bracelet. A big black bag can be also purchased from the same store, so no need to go too far away. It goes with flats or high heels, depends of the mood and the time of the day. For me, it is that kind of dress that you insist to wear it again and again because it is comfy, elegant and makes an elegant statement about yourself.

In the back kitchen of the famous Poole's

Poole's and its chef Ashley Christensen are becoming one of the iconic successes of the new American cuisine. Often despised in Europe for its lack of sophistication, the chefs on the other side of the ponds worked hard and succeeded to change the stereotypes about the US food culture.
The book is attractive not only for the interesting recipes and the story behind them - mostly happy childhood tasty memories - but also for the mouth-watering pictures, here to prove that, indeed, you should give a try to the recipes. 
This foodie version of the American dream, Poole's in Raleigh, means also a different philosophy when it comes to creating new dishes: 'For each and every dish, we start by breaking it down, piece by piece and examining it, from the ingredients on up through every single step. We pay meticulous attention to the details to make sure every thing is in balance and the final product is absolutely delicious while still respecting its identity and original story'. 
Labeled mostly as 'Southern kitchen', the cuisine tasted at Poole's go beyond any geographical attribution. It uses an eclectic mix of spices and ingredients, it creates new food habits and explore new tastes. What do you think, for instance, about 'popcorn with Dijon, olive oil, and Parmigiano Reggiano'? Or 'thuna tartare with Piment d'Esplete and cucumber'? Or cornmeal fried okra with tabasco mayo? I am particularly tempted by the watermelon with avocado, goat cheese, basil and sweet onion, featured on the cover. The recipes presented cover all the usual meals, from the entrees to the cocktails and sweets. I must confess that maybe there are too much liver-based recipes for my poor taste, but this is my one and only problem. As for now, I wish I have the strength to test the challah bread pudding with whiskey, apples and sour cream. Because it is never too late to try something completely new in your life.
Disclaimer: Book offered by the published in exchange of an honest review

Friday, September 23, 2016

Steiff Toys: 'Only the best is good enough for children'

Created at the end of the 19th century by Margarete Steiff, the famous plush toys Made in Germany are nowadays a trademark of quality. The company was created in 1880 and later in 1902 took over by Margarete's nephew, Richard who launched the production of the teddy bears, out of which almost one million pieces were created since.
At the beginning, Margarete designated elephants, used as pincushions, but once she noticed children playing with them around the house, she decided to produce them as toys and even to diversify the design to dogs, cats or pigs. Nowadays, you can find by Steiff almost all the possible animals, each of them waiting for loving children hugs.
The motto of the company, a belief hold until today is: 'Only the best is good enough for children'. Each stuffed animal sold is the product of many hours of careful inspection and testing. The eyes, for instance, should be very resistant to tension, and the materials used for the production are highly flame resistant.
At the end of the inspection, a button in ear - Kopf im Ohr - is placed, the final touch that certifies the authenticity of the product and its successful confirmation of the quality. The metal button was recently introduced, in order to fight counterfeighting. 
A significant part of the work is done by hand, from design to production, hence the usual high price you might pay for a beautiful and cute teddy bear. But most of them are for life, that toy that accompany your life until the old age and you give it further on to your children and grandchildren.
The materials used for the cover are usually alapaca, felt or mohair, fine choices aimed to avoid harming the children or with a high anti-allergenic occurence. The stiffing is made by polyester fiber.
Usually, the Steiff store provides important pieces for the dedicated collectors.
Young or toddler, or just fascinated by children toys, any Steiff store is a destination for childhood dreams. Maybe this time you don't buy anything, but just looking around makes you feel in Wonderland. And this feeling can be enough.
Pictures took at the Steiff Store in Osnabrück, Germany

Monday, September 19, 2016

Fashion to die for: Meng

I was having an absent look around the KaDeWe store in Berlin, not too impress and without noticing anything new around when my eyes fixed a piece of pastel silk in a corner. I come closer and couldn't believe what I was seeing: a whole collection of beautiful silks and kimonos that seem to be just brought there on the white velvet wings of a egret. 
The fashion art is produced since 2012 by Meng Zhang and is based in London. The uniquely printed items are produced also in collaboration with printing mills in Italy.
The website provides an online shop and details about different collections of womenswear, as well as accessories, homeware or stationary. As for me, I focused all my attention on the beautiful hand crafter artistic womenswear, just because I can hardly resist names of collections such as: Pastel Shores, Cherry Blossom, Butterfly Lovers.
Meng is the right choice, if you want to surround yourself by beautiful things. I love everything about this company, from the stories behind each collection to the inspirational trigger behind every piece.
 When art meets fashion and dreams the result is a work of art. Somehow, there is no price for making such a beauty part of your life. The prices are from 300 Euro.
It might be true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, but sometimes, beauty is too obvious to need any filter or imagination. From now on, Meng is happily included on the brands on my fashion radar. Because it fully deserves it. 
Photos: Meng Website:

Interior design inspiration in Osnabrück: NeuLanD

My travels often bring me near interesting stores where I can easily find inspiration for my next interior design ideas. One such happy encounter was at the beginning of the summer in Osnabrück, where I've discovered the happy-go-lucky NeuLanD store in the central Neu Markt area. 
The colours are inviting the passer-by to have a look and discover a different world of colours. The window might be not very stylish decorated by it has some interesting pieces of glass that will call your interest, at least if you are from my tribe of people in love with pastel colours.
On the other side of the threshold, the mosaique of colours and diversity of objects is inviting. As in the case of the window, do not expect some special set-up of the shop either, but once in a while I can ignore such a failure, for the sake of beautiful colours (again).
I've spent a couple of good minutes around, taking pictures and looking at the items, but no one didn't bother to ask me anything, which might be a problem when you are really looking for something special. But probably in such cases you just have to scream your needs and for sure someone will show up.
The prices are for everyone, from 2.5 Euro until close to 500 Euro, for the pieces of furniture. 
The bowls and cups of different sizes are always an elegant and stylish addition to your naked wooden shelves. 
There is also garden furniture, from the metal category, that can be embellished by pillows and simple uni table covers.
The items in the shop suit every room, from the kitchen to the bathroom. Not that much though for the children room, but just because you can buy for your little one, one of these chaotically colourful towels. Wish I was prepared for some shopping this trip! 
As a hobby artist myself, I've learn from this shop how important is to use the right colour for creating special effects without too much of a financial investment. Those fish may look very boring and unattractive in their first appearance, probably some colourless-metal, but the myterious turquoise changed completely the mood and the appearance.
If you are from the more sophisticated group of people that want to keep everything immaculately white, NeuLanD has some items for you too: those glasses that suit very well your Friday evening mood maching wine.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Country fashion Made in Bavaria

For small children or for grown up, the Bavarian popular costumes are becoming a popular outfit, not only during the Oktoberfest in Munich. Any bar or restaurant which pretends to offer authentic 'Bavarian' food and drinks - beer - must have waitresses wearing 'tracht' and displaying them during the day trip from the South to Berlin is more than a fashion statement, but a declaration of independence and excentricity against the despiteful 'center' capital city. 
Originally, the tracht - a word which embraces both the women and men's costumes - was worn by peasants from the regions of Bavaria and South Tyrol. The men wear Lederhosen - leather trousers with a drop flap on the front - and women Dirndl - a costume comprises a blouse, bodice, full skirt and apron. All these parts of the Dirndl were suited for various works around the house, as it was initially the costume of the servant or maid's dress. On the men's side, it was usually the outfit of hunters - with a green hat with a feather - and riders.
In the 19th century, with the processes of national and local identity on the rise, the style was adopted as a patriotic display by the upper echelons of the society and continues to be so. The materials changed in order to give a more noble 'touch' to the ensemble: velvet for the Lederhosen or fine silks for the dirndl. Thus, no wonder if once in a while you can see on a high-end catwalk the Bavarian costume. It is part of the 'Landhausmode' trends, or country-inspired fashion. 
Pictures took in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What to do with pillows? Some inspiration

Pillows come in different sizes and colours and patterns. Some of them are big enough to keep you company and offer comfort after a busy day at work, some may just catch some big dirty or destroyed corners or just to bring some life to a room. Here are a couple of ideas about how to use them. The samples of pillows where photographed during a recent visit to the German city of Osnabrück.
The pillow is a very mobile accessorize. You can change its location either in the room or in the house. The bigger ones can be just placed on the floor for watching your favourite TV series or for playing something interesting with your kids.
I personally prefer the pillows with a changeable cover. Thus, with a minimal investment, you can bring change into your room. In this picture, I am very much in love with the velvet covers, which are so elegant. Such a texture suits very well a lavish bedroom but also the living room.
Particularly for small children, the pillows can provide many funny activities and be a source of inspiration. The funny images can push forward their imagination without borders. However, funny covers aren't only for children, If you are a couple or individual with a good sense of humour, your pillow cover can be a healthy source of well being. I do have at home both variants, with the rectangular ones for the night sleep, and the squared for the decorations. The round ones are, in my opinion, well suited for sitting, but do have a decorative value as well.
The rectangular pillows are elegant and inviting, while the square ones can be a bit possesive and selfish. As in the case of matrasses, it is recommended to buy the best in terms of medical and health recommendations. Who wants to wake up with a bad head day?

What about you? What are your pillow choices?