Saturday, July 30, 2016

My first (fake) tattoo

I am not a fan of permanent tattoos, although I am living in a city where during the summer I can admire the purest forms of body art, worn by almost every adult age. This summer, I decided though to do many of the things I did not dare years before and applying a fake tattoo was one of them. I started with Catrice, a company distributing its models, silverly and goldy, with many Oriental inspiration like Hamsa, via Rossmann. The items are produced in China, and there are no indication regarding the allergy risks, except to do not apply to "sensitive and irritated skin". 
The explanations are available in English, German and French. Most of the models are fine, not high elegance and not giving the impression of real tattoos. Personally, the Egyptian eye is the least successful one, quite a kitsch and not a nice design. There are models to apply on the ankle or on the length of the hand or on the back. I chose for now a small goldy star. I cut the piece of paper with it on.
Before applying it, I made sure that the skin where I want to apply it is very clean. I set it on the part of the body where I wanted to have it, fix the tattoo with the designed part on the skin and put a small wet pad on it. Waited two minutes and took the pad out. 
The tattoo is on the skin! Waited another minute to be sure that it is dried and that's all. I got my first tattoo. It looked good, although the best is to wear it in the evening or night, eventually before going to a club. When you look it from closer, it might be not a big deal, even think about the children fake tattoos you got as surprises in various sweets. But from afar, it is just a cute design and looks good on the summer skin.
It lasts for around one week and you can easily take it off with some make up remover or just water and soap. No allergic reactions or other problems, and after a couple of days it still looked pretty fine.
Meanwhile, I applied another fake tattoo from Catrice on the skin and still happy with it. Having a bit of fun doesn't hurt at all.

Dates and apricots fruit salad

Definitely, today I am in the mood for sharing as many recipes as possible. This time, I am happy to tell a little foodie story for a very special combination I did find myself. 
Last year, I got a very special assignement, to prepare the catering for a small wedding here, in Berlin. The budget was tight and the time was also limited. Plus, I just got a new job, and was pregnant in the last trimestre and, well, all together it was a lot to do and cope with.
Somehow, I accepted the challenge of the catering, not only because I needed the money, but for the sake of the challenge as such. Me, who less than ten years ago was hardly able to differentiate between different tastes and foods, was now cooking for other - 50 - people too. 
Anyway, I took the assignment and started to do various testing for some fast and summer fit recipes. The clients were not sophisticated, but it was their unique wedding moment and thus, it was my duty to make it taste uniquely. 
Besides the special cake - which was millefeuilles, a nightmare for experienced cooks as well, but this is another story - they wanted some little finger foods, including tasty fruit salads. 
After many trials, my final choice was to mix fresh apricots with dates. No sugar needed, as the dates do have enough sweetness. The only condition was to keep them a couple of hours together in order to have a certain interaction between the two tastes. The ratio I used was of around 5 small apricots for 7 dates - the Mejoul ones are perfectly sweet. It is easy to prepare, convenient and healthy too. To be consumed either as an individual dessert or as a snake between meals, accompanied by a glass of champagne. 

Veggie salad for the hot days

With summer such a high commodity in Europe, I prefer as much as I can to spend most of the hot and sunny days outdoors. Either taking short trips, either going out with the baby, my time spent indoors is significantly limited. But we also need to eat, even only once in a while. For such situations, fresh salads are there to feed your hunger.
A couple of weeks ago, I did some creative salad cooking and the result was very healthy and fit for every kind of meals: either company for pasta, or for some chicken or just as an individual healthy meal.
The preparation took around 20 minutes. It serves 3.
250 brown champignons, finely chopped
250 fresh tomatoes, finely chopped
3 yellow paprika, finely chopped
1 big cucumber, finely chopped
250 gr. corn
200 gr. water creast
salt, on taste
black pepper, on taste
dried oregano, on taste
150 ml. olive oil

Mix well all the ingredients together and let to rest in the fridge for half an hour. 

Bon Appetit!

Months 7-8-9 with the baby

Not too much update about our mother and baby life, isn't it? True is that in the last three months, there were a lot going on in my life, and in baby's too, and keeping a straight record of the step-by-step evolution was not always possible. Also, the summer time is here and when I am not at home cleaning and keeping the house maintenance at an acceptable level or finishing my writing assignments, I am out with the baby, enjoying the beautiful summer days.
To keep it to the point, the last three months with the baby were really amazing and every moment I am reminded how blessed I am to have such a jewel of a kid: not crying too much, healthy, most part of the time happy and pretty adaptable to various travel schedule. As an overview, not too many things happened but for him, my little - now - 10-month baby, he went through many changes.
First, the mobility developed a whole lot. He not only can seat independently for many minutes, but he is also crawling very fast. Thus, the most sensitive and dangerous parts of the house - such as corners and sources of electricity, were sealed and secured in a way to not create any harm to the baby.
The food options diversified considerably, and now he accepts more or less almost everything - except the spinach (he is my son too, after all). Solids are now an important part of his daily diet while the frequency of milk bottles decreased. 
One of the many things I've learned in the last months was to stop - definitely stop - comparing my kid with the others. We registered, for instance, for a crawling club, where every Monday together with other babies his age we do for one hour and a half various crawling exercises. At the time, he was not crawling too much, but other babies from the group, maybe one month younger or more were extremely fast at that. I made some worries for a while, thinking that maybe we, again, have a development problem. And waited and waited until one day, just like this, he crossed the entire house in less than 15 minutes, back and forth. 
During this time, we alse went away for three weeks, which meant a complete relocation for the baby, with a different temperature, food habits and bed. He coped with it very well, but there were some important challenges ahead, such as being faced with the problem of the lack of his special juice or the usual bottle food he is used with. 
Another observation for this period is that our baby grew up with very advanced social skills: he is very friendly with new people, utters cries of joy when encountering other kids in the buggy and even more loudly every time when we approach some dogs - or cats. We've been a couple of times to the zoos, and even to some goat park and every time he was very happy to see the animals.
This is all for now...More specific posts to come in the next days, covering the challenges of travelling with a toddler, foodie needs and other day by day challenges!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Interior design inspiration in Israel: GOLF Home

Golf Home is for Israel the equivalent of ZARA Home. Besides, it has a clothes section, dedicated to various ages. The prices are usual middle to high, with significant discounts around the year and big offers: for instance, if you buy one specific product you can get another at half price.
I was particularly interested in the Home design section, curious to discover new textures and products different from the usual European offer. In fact, there are differences in terms of patterns, but also when it comes to the production processes or countries of destination. For instance, many of the glassware distributed comes from China, a convenient business partner for Israel, especially from the point of view of the prices.
The offer is impressive - people cook a lot in Israel, especially the religious families with many children, not too resourceful to go to a restaurant every couple of days. Compared to Europe, prices can be significantly lower, with high quality in exchange.
When I visited, it was before the holiday of Shavuot, when dairy products are prepared. Various rounds of discounts were available, especially for glassware and icecream bowls. Many products look relatively simple, but are of good quality.
Colourful ideas are always available, but when it comes to adorning elegantly the table, nothing compares to some pure white table services.
GOLF has sections for every part of the house, including bedrooms, with various imprints for bed, aimed for different ages and tastes.
The summer inspired glassware were my favourite products. Watermelon models for napkins and bowls send a message of joy and family feeling.
Lemonade colour for your glass of real lemonade, prepared with mint and lemon and a lot of ice? Why not!
As a fan of blue, the Moroccan inspiration for plates and bowls, as well as for pillows, is a very stylish addition to your house.
What I love when I visit home and design stores in Israel, is to guess how to use so many smart items created to make the life in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable. Very often I need an expert to explain me what is the meaning of some of the products.
Some items can be used for the everyday table needs, but some of them are just for decorative, or genuine religious reasons. I particularly loved the glass blue-emerald candlesticks. Delicate but following the traditional patterns.

After spending a significant amount of time checking and admiring so many beautiful products, I only had one regret: my luggage did not have too much space to bring back at least one sample from each collection. Maybe the next time...

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Pho Cookbook, by Andrea Nguyen

The Vietnamese food is a relatively latest addition to my Asian food preferences - with Japanese food as number 1. It took me a long summer to get used with the special taste of herbs and spices added at the spring rolls and the vegetables soups, but the cold coffee was a love at first sight. I keep trying new and new foods but I feel that probably, until I will go to Vietnam and enter the spirit of the place and see the original ingredients, I will still not be a faithful lover. 
The Pho Book, by the Vietnamese food expert Andrea Nguyen brought me closed to this special Asian cuisine. 'Rice is the dutiful wife you can rely on, we say. Pho is the flirty mistress that you slip away to visit'. With such a description is hard not to want to know more, including about how to make your own Pho at home - not as difficult as one may think.
What I appreciated about the book in the first place, is the careful research, including in Vietnam, and the anthropological investigation about this meal. Based on a deep knowledge and years of practice - her mother has a Pho restaurant too - the reader is offered more than a cookbook, but a rich food story book. Useful - particularly for a reader outside the Pho-realm - it is also that there are many details about preparations and possible meal matches. 
Surprinsingly for me, Pho can be eaten any time of the day, in various combinations, including meatless, a variant which 'seemed surreal, if not as absurd as a drone aircraft'. However, instead of meat one can use tofu or seitan variants. Anyway, the 'ultra' traditional Pho has: broth, noodles and cooked beef. 'A bowl of steamy pho and a glass of ice coffee is an unbeatable Viet food pairing'. The author also recommends coffee with coconut milk, which I tried once but was not happy with. 
I recommend this book to anyone interested in Vietnamese food, and for any foodie writing lovers in general.

Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher via

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Rosenthal beauty

I grew up with Rosenthal porcelain ware that decorated our family table for various occasions, but somehow, as a teenager, I resented something I used to call outrageous luxury. However, as a fully grown up woman, I returned to the old memories and cherished there with more respect than I used to as a confused teen. 
Thus, I adopted many of my family household customs, especially of using special glassware for various occasions. The Berlin Rosenthal store, that I visit regularly to check for inspiration, succeedes every time to brought childhood memories back to life. And to give me some new ideas too. How may refuse a travel-themed table service? Not the traveler me, anyway?
The Ku'damm store presents various temporary exhibitions with works produced for the company by various ceramic and porcelain artists from Germany and abroad. 
Besides modernist bold designs, there is always something simple left in the collections. For instance, the nature-inspired patterns which I particularly love at a serious cuppa.
The Ku'damm store is designed with taste and reflects at a great extent the over 125 years of tradition of the company, the market leader in Germany in the segment of glass-ceramics.
Simplicity of lines of materials are often the result of hard work and long experiments in order to achieve the perfect shapes and finest compositions of materials.
 Rosenthal is part of the eating and living experience of many European families nowadays.
The colourful touch of some new items on the market reflects the need to catch up with the times, while keeping the highest standards. Just think how many middle-class women used to have Rosenthal part of their dowry and you will understand the relevance of this brand for the everyday life in Europe.
The headquarters are based in Selb, close to the Czech border, but have stores in big cities across the world and Germany, uch as Munich or New York.
From pieces of furniture to fine dishwares, some of them produced for high-end brands such as Versace, Rosenthal remains a European brand whose history is part of our histories as Europeans as well. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Garden design inspiration in Bad Pyrmont

Summer is my best travel season, particularly around Germany. While on the road, besides my usual travel assignments, I always keep my eye and the camera open for some inspiration, especially in the field of interior design. As on a trip in the picturesque Bad Pyrmont, I noticed some interesting decorations ideas that I am sharing right now...
Big balconies need life. Even if you are situated at an upper level and from there, you can have a view over a beautiful landscape - the case in Bad Pyrmont - you still need to create your special environment in your near vicinity, the place where you take your coffee every morning. The combination between suspended pots of generous vegetations and the bottom decorations brings life and colour to a very sober and cold. It also bring a warm touch to the entire house ensemble.
The choices of the garden decorations are mostvy determined by the local offer and the specific climate. Only green little - bonsai - trees, not much higher than the upper part of the ground level windows bring more dynamism - also given the different sizes and shapes of the trees - to the building and embelishes the view.
 Huge trees, almost the size of the building, need time to grow up, but given the many years, decades maybe of ages of the trees, gives an air of sobriety and seriosity.
The wrought fence is not always an elegant view, but when you use the metal holes to let the vegetation go by and fill the space, everything looks much better and more inviting. During the summer, it also creates a green curtain that gives more privacy to the yard.
When you do not have the privivedge of living in a big house with garden, your balcony is your breath of green life. You can spend time there to relax after a long day in the office, have breakfast, meet your friends or read a book. Why not make it a cozy spot and add, besides flowers, some beautiful art too?

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Korean hydro mask from Rival de Loop

Keeping your skin hydrated enough during the hot summer days is one of the biggest challenges of the season. I am generally using special wet napkins every evening for cleaning the face, even if I am not using make-up, and I try to drink as much as possible.
However, I am also trying to find professional help and this affordable mask from Rival de Loop, available at any Rossmann store for under 1 EUR. Cheap doesn't mean not worthy this time. I'd used it several times already and was pleased with the result.
You can apply it very easy: it contains a big face mask foil, with space for the eyes, but quite tight for the rest of the face. The advantage of using those masks is that you have guaranteed the coverage and thus, highest results. When I apply a mask by myself, I might be tired and absent minded and not all the face is covered properly. 
The mask contains avocado and cupuacu butter, both with benefic effects on the level of skin hydration. I kept the mask on my face for around 7 minutes, a good occasion to just think about myself and relax. You can use it as often as you want, as it has a good effect on skin and makes your face feel healthy and refreshed for the rest of the day. You can apply it either early in the morning or late in the evening. 

A visitor at you2016 Berlin

When I shared with the teenager in the house my intention to visit You2016 Berlin this year, the announcement was received with irony and a discouraging speech followed: I am far beyond the average age of the participants, there is nothing of interest for me, all the beginner teenagers will have a lot of fun of me. Etc. Etc. But it is hard to discourage me when I have an aim, in this case, my curiosity to understand the market for this age segment plus, eventually, got more glimpses into the YouTube mania in Germany. Somehow, I succeeded to have a look at the fair, but gave up the YouTube part, as I decided it was already too much for me. As for the audience, no one forbade me or made fun of me and surprisingly, there were new more than one mother with baby too.
The ICC Hall, plus the yard, were full with activities and teenagers jumping back and forth in all directions. Expect loud music - party mood - and some shootings at the Mädchen stand. Knowing something about the passion of teenagers nowadays for as much make-up as possible, I was expecting more beauty companies, but it wasn't the case. Instead, henna tattoos made by Indian ladies were beautiful. One day, I will got one too.
There were a lot of competitions with various prizes, and those areas were usually very crowded. Maybe too enthusiastic too.
Some competitions were more serious, like the Battle of Schools, aimed to display the best graffiti work.
As in the case of make-up, fashion was underrepresented. At the sports area, there were more shoes and sport suits options.
The manga fans had a small corner with colourful and exotic items.
Japanese sports praticed by German experts were neighbouring some serious boxing matches, with bells and hard hits. Even for a couple of seconds, it was my first boxing game. Not sure if I would fancy to repeat the experience though. 
A big hall was dedicated to jobs offers for teenagers. Army, Police, Customs, insurance companies, were some of the options. Bundeswehr - Army Forces - invited the youngsters to have a look inside a PA 200 Tornado.
Outside, teens are fighting paintball or shoot some laser weapons. Indoors, some basketball training was going on. I left with a lot of ideas of what I should keep in mind for a growing up boy. As a once in a lifetime experience, it was useful. And not all the teenagers are really mean actually. 

Interior Design inspiration at Paper&Tea Berlin

Situated on a quiet street in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf area, Paper&Tea is a classical destination for those in love with high tea, Asian minimalist design and elegant shopping. 
Although the space does not abund, the shop is organised with careful attention to details. The many tea items and tea boxes or other ingredients are spread between the many shelves, without leaving the impression of crowded. The furniture is paint in pastel mild colours which matches the usual classical musical background of the store. Invitation to serenity.
The tea assortments abund, but for me, the most interesting experience is the chance to touch the texture and smell the various teas. Particularly my beloved Matcha.
The quiet Japanese porcelain is an invitation to silence and finding your inner strengths.
Each sortiment of tea is presented in detail, with information about the geographical origin and the description of the fragrance. Just like in a laboratory.
Apparently, there are so many utensils used for the preparation of the perfect tea, that you need to take some classes to understand how to use them right. Their website - in German and English - offers information about the products displayed as well as tells stories about tea and brings information about various events hosted. The information help in case when the customer service had a bad day, as it happened when we visited.
Tea&Paper is a place for inspiration and wellbeing, to visit even if you may not be that passionate about tea. Yet.