Saturday 30 November 2013

Kitchen Life


My last week has not been the most pleasant one, a nasty stomach flu hit me and for 3 days in a row I could not keep a sip of water, tea or anything that entered my mouth.
Groceries! Food! Apples! Bananas! Not for me.
My culinary highlight looked like this, oatmeal:
By the time my stomach decided to keep food I was not in the position to make any demands, so "Hello gruel!" 
 Now, that my stomach is almost back to normal, I compensated the last week like this:
Some of the gingerbread and cookies will make it to my parent's house. It is always nice to find some vegan sweets in your parent's kitchen. :-)

Herbal teas and ginger bread. A lot of herbal tea. Mostly calming and relaxing. And comforting.
You know why: Tomorrow we are going to light the first candle of the Advent wreath. Wait, only 25 days left? But it's 4 weeks, 4 candles ...?! How can that be ... 4 times 7 ...
Vienna benefits from a late autumn season, temperatures above zero, sunny afternoons, no winter around here so far. But the wreath will add some Christmas-mood, no doubt!

Plus, I've already brought home the first Christmas gifts. They will go to ... me :-) hehehe
It has been a long time since I mentioned the public library on the blog. Some of you might remember that I am a regular visitor at the public library. Last week, just in time before the flu had confined me to bed, I discovered this book:
The photos reminds me of us, the bloggers, who portray their kitchens, working in the kitchen. Over tha past years, I have seen a lot of worktops on blogspot. It seems as if kitchen portrais have a history:
She looks so much like my grandmother. :-)
Lothar Binger and Susann Hellemann collected and curated the "trivial"-photos for the book "KÜCHENLEBEN", published by Culturcon medien, "Archiv historische Alltagsfotografie". 

The authors comment every photo in a very "warm" way. They explain what we can see, make the reader see more, because they look thoroughly. A great piece of work. I will show it to my father. I wonder if he will feel as sentimental as I do, looking at the photos.
He is like a spitting image of my grandfather.
My grandparents always had a cold dinner. Bread and cheese and ham and sausages. AND: Tea!
Just like the couple in the photo. I don't drink tea for dinner but after dinner. Every evening. Now you probably understand, why I've pampered myself with such a large selection of herbal teas. The last week has been a rough one. After water running through a tube into my vein, I am sooo happy I can drink again. And the large amounts of my beloved Berry's Irish Tea aren't too kind to my stomach.

Recently a woman on the radio explained how nurses can make people who suffer from dementia feel more comfortable. If the person used to drink tea at night, it helps to treat the ill person in a nursery home with a cup of tea before bed time, he/she will probably feel better, safer, more at home, less anxious. Good to know.

xo Paula  

EDIT: right after saving and publishing this posting I looked outside and ... see for yourself: 

Saturday 23 November 2013

Test run

Janet from "The Gardener's Cottage"  recently posted a smart holiday survival guide. Her blog has calming effects on her readers. I have no idea how she does it, her writing is an antidote for many words that get said and written in the blogsphere. 

Back to her holiday survival guide. The bottom line (as I read it) is: organise. now. 
Tonight I went for a holiday-dinner test run: Wellington mushroom strudel, vegan. Wow. Considering the fact that I did not measure any ingredients and simply read a recipe online, left the computer, went to the kitchen and started cooking, this meal has urned out really nice. It is this kind of dish where you have to take a 2nd serving and later on you feel like you really want to go back to the kitchen and eat a third serving.
Only the butternut (pumpkin) lacked inspiration. Spicy hummus with chili did set it right though.

After the meal Mr Paula and I brainstormed, where this strudel may lead to: add some sliced roasted seitan or maybe crumbled fried smoked tofu?

Anyhow, this test run did make a festive appearance, with its colours. It accompanies red wine very nicely and I am fully satisfied, in more than just one way.


Sharpen your senses

Two plates with roasted coffee beans. One sample is fairtrade organic coffee, the other sample is conventional coffee. I wanted to see if I as a untrained person could notice a difference. So I sniffed here and sniffed there and it did not take long to notice ... aroma - scents - shapes - colours - grades of oiliness. The two samples differ in many ways.
This week Vienna celebrates the annual vienna art week (vaw). I am joining if for the fist time and  I am delighted. You could say the vaw-virus got me. The programme ranges from blue chips like Olafur Elliason to researching artists like Anna Artaker and Meike S. Gleim (pictured below)

After the guided tour at Anna's and Meike's exhibition, we visited the "Verbund" headquarters' "Yellow Fog" by Olafur Eliasson where I learned about the Verbund-collection. The corner at 'Am Hof' has been foggy for 5 years already which makes the Yellow Fog the longest Olafur-intervention in public space. 

On our way home we paid the Secession a visit where 3 exhibitions opened tonight.
Big art so to say. It seems no respected exhibition can make it without penises.

At the vernissage I saw plenty of style, many dark red lips, sharp contoured bangs, oversized coats and and heels. No doubt, young female artists have a sense of fashion, while the men still hold on to their pretty ugly beards, still very fashionable in Vienna. 
Two floors lower you can see the famous Beethoven mural by Gustav Klimt. A piece of art that lawyers and heirs fight over. Yesterday the visitors did not care for Klimt but prefered to contemplate on a naked female butt. 

Today I might revisit the MUSA, the art collection owned by the city of Vienna. I have already been there last week. Mr Paula's mum and I had joined the guided tour. I advise you to visit guided tours with company. Otherwise you might end up in a 1:1 situation which can be really akward. 1:2 feels better.
The exhibiton 'The 70's' at the MUSA runs until January 4, 2014.
1970. flower power. drugged dreams. The guide told us that she does not tell pupils the whole truth about this piece of art. ;-)
The light is perfect, not to be taken for granted. Often you find unpleasant shadows across exhibited pieces of art, due to poor lightening.

"Kunst am Bau" - art accompanies architecture, in open space as well as in foyers.
The exhibition has some very enjoyable pieces of art on display. Entrance is free, guided tour every saturday at 2pm, free of charge!
Not pictured: The "Emil Nolde" exibition at the Belvedere and the Gazprom collection "Russian Dreams" at the Albertina, because visitors are not allowed to take photos of the exhibitions.

I am off for some roasted beans.
Sharpen your senses!

xo Paula

Wednesday 20 November 2013

More than words

Writings have been part of the street design for generations. You could find various styles, often shop owners put their "handwriting" across the shopwindows: neon was the ultimate design, next to bold letters, made of plastic, that crowned shops. No matter how small a shop was, the writing was substantial.
The writings have shaped our environment in the city for decades - until international chains one after the other took over one shop after the other. As a consequence of the international chains those shops that where too small to be of any interest for the chains had to go out of business. With the shops those letters entered our collective memory. They become extinct. No time for grieving, not today!
A few young group of designers started to collect those words and letters. They are driven by their love for typo. And they love to hunt. They hunt for writings. They just know when a shop is going to close for good and then they lie in wait for the right moment and take care of the writings before someone comes and destroys them.

Today they opened a small exhibition. The curator said "What you see in the room is just the dot of an "i"", a tiny part of their huge collection. They wish to be able to present their collected words in a spacious room someday in the near future. Where design meets retro meets our past and collective memory.
I am a big fan of these vectorised writings, placed them on the explanatory cards, so you can compare the various designs

 The old CA-Bankverein-logo. Was before my time. ;-)
 A cute letter mess in a corner
This was today's opening.
The exhibition runs until January 31, 2014 at GB* 7/8, Lerchenfelderstraße
Light therapy at its best!

xo Paula

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Welcome to Vienna!

The downside of one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vienna: the Prater
I just had to back pedal and take this photo.

Here you can see the famous big wheel in the far back, a new multi storey park deck to the right (the building with red wire-frames) The park deck was built right beside an existing, usually empty multi storey park deck. You also see a cash machine, hidden inside a gigantic pig, which is surrounded by cheap fences. Posts to hinder you from parking your car outside the park deck are to be found all over the place.

I guess I captured the ugly downside quite well. 

On my way

On my way to the toilet I pass this cactus. The fog had cleared, making way for bright light and shadows. What did you cherish today?

Saturday 16 November 2013

DIY coffee pot cozy

There are foods and beverages I like warm as much as cold. Cake. Potatoe salad. Roasted pumpkin. And then there are foods and beverages that loose their magic once they are cool: pasta with sauce, assam tea and coffee. The coffee inside the coffee pot cools the moment you pour the boiling hot water in the glass jug. Thermodynamic never lets you down.
coffee pot / photo taken at the end of our saturday breakfast session

A few years ago I decided to bring an end to the "Who craves the last cup of cold coffee?"- breakfast  and returned from the local Bodum store with a neoprene coffee pot cuff which I proudly presented  to Mr Paula. He "hm hmm'd" the new gadget. The next morning our thermoinsulated coffee pot bbehaved oddly. My satisfaction lasted only a few minutes. The boiling hot water had warmed the cuff and the neoprene released neoprene molecules into the air. Instead of coffee flavours now plastic flavours met my olfactory nerves while pouring the coffee. The whole coffee thing totally looses its purpose when your breakfast table is surrounded by plastic molecules in the air. The next they I returned the cuff to a very-high-eyebrowed-sales assistent.
She: "This can't be. No one before you ever had this problem and they are a bestseller". 
Me: "I can assure you, I am not making this up. Maybe other customers don't bother to come back for 6 EUR". 

Cuff returned, problem not solved to full satisfaction yet. When the market lets you down, it's time for DIY.
wrapping the coffee pot - a new morning ritual
rear view. oh well
clip deserves an upgrade, but since economy class achieves the aim as well

Stay warm!
xo Paula

Friday 15 November 2013

Ring the alarm ...

10pm, I leave the couch for some tea and on my way to the kitchen a bad smell irritates my nose: SMOKE! Not the kind of smoke that makes it way into your apartment from your smoking neighbours open windows. No, not this smoke. I mean the real thing, the smoke-smoke thing. The one that leaves you unconscious on the floor.

( photo: workplace, not where I live)
We have a very thick and solid door at the entrance of our apartment. So I assumed the smoke had made its way through one of the air ways between the apartments, within the walls. I thought so, until I had opened our entrance door and some really bad smoke greeted me. That's when the ADRENALINE rushes through your veins and the auto-mode starts, no matter what you think, you DO.
Quick words to Mr Paula: You better get dressed, could be that we have to get outside really fast, I have to check what's going on in this house, is it coming from one of the lower floors? If so, I have to alarm the neighbours on the top floors. We live on a top storey in a medium-sized apartment building. In case of a fire, those on the upper floors ... well, you know. I run upstairs and are ... bewildered! How a large building can smell so badly.

I press my thumb on the first door bell, then the next door bell and the next. Each bell 5 secs, then another round. 10pm. Every door bell sounds differently. All I can do is listen to the sounds they make and wait. Do I hear something behind the door? How long should I wait? Is it wise to wait? What does it mean, if no one opens the door? Slow neighbours. Neighbours in bathrobes. 1 out of 4 openes the door. Check. The first neighbour who opens a door looks at me, with a perplex face and complains "Wow. This smell is really bad! Why is this awful smoke in the air?".
I ask her: "Did you just burn some food in your kitchen? Does this smoke come from your apartment?" No, not her.

Then I hesitate for one moment. Is it wise to open the windows in the stairway of not? Chimney, smoke, fire, oxygen feeds fire, smoke blocks lungs, the nature of fire ... I decided to open the window. Bad idea? Where can I learn how to do it right?

Next floor, pushing door bells. 2 out of 4 open the doors. 1 bath robe, 1 tracksuit.
Again the perplex faces and the complaints. One neighbour asks me "What is going on? Why this awful smell?"
Me: "I don't know"

I run off to the next floor, the smoke is really bad. One floor further down I see an open door, I ask the girl who awaits someone in the hallway, if they burnt something in the kitchen? She shakes her head. The smell is not as bad down on her floor as it was on my floor.

One floor further down no smoke at all. I am narrowing down the potential apartments. Quite a lot of doors remain closed. I continue, press my thumb on the door bells.Those bells make a hell of a noise, at 10pm. It seems and feels appropriate. Ring the alarm. I can't believe how many people don't open their doors. They probably are not at home. But what if  the neighbour that caused the smoke already lies on the floor, unconscious? How difficult will it be to remove the smoke from our goods in case we need to be evacuated and a fire breaks out?

Some neighbours who had opened the doors before, return to their apartments, others come back outside and start to gather and chat about the smoke. Now that I am sitting here on my couch, I start to realize how not a single neighbour had offerend any help or had support me, by ringing at the doorbells.. Instead they had flocked like sheep. Afterwards one neighbour smiled at me, thanked me sincerely for caring, acting.

Third floor. Ringing the bell. A girl opens, looks at me "It's me. I did something really bad in the kitchen, I am so sorry!"

I stare at her. I ask her: Are you SURE everything is ok by now? There is no fire, everything under control?"
She nodds and you can tell she feels guilty. I am not angry at all. Just very worried. She moved in a few weeks ago, a young student for the first time on her own, abroad, alone in a 4-room-apartment. Its a long distance between the kitchen, where a pot can be easily forgotten on the stove and the living room, where you enter the social network or skype with your friends and forget about time.

Ok. In the end it was nothing. I did react like a dog. Ringing the alarm. No way I could have stayed in my apartment.
Later on Mr Paula said "As long as no fire brigade is around, everything is safe."
Excuse me? Someone has to call the fire brigade (there are no smoke detectors in our building). The don't show up if no one finds out about the fire. The last fire in my neighbourhood happened not long ago. It was not the person who had caused the fire who had called the fire brigade. That person was no longer able to call anyone. It's the neighbours who ring the alarm.Our building would not meet todays standards of safety regulations. There is only one stairway, no alternative way to get out.

( photo: workplace, not where I live)
So. Mr Paula was right in the end. Everything was ok. Even though my kitchen smelled like burned toast. Without any toast in the toaster. Before I left the apartment to search for the cause of this smoke, I had actually searched the toaster for burned toast, deep down in the toaster. There had to be some black piece of burned toast, how else could it smell that badly in my whole apartment? I was absolutely puzzled. Where does the smoke come from?!

Did I overreact? Actually, this question does not matter to me. I had no choice but had to act.

A trainer in a first aid course once told us: in case we administer first aid and need support, we should not just ask for help but point at someone "You, with the green shirt, I need you here." This is the only way to get people in a crowd to help you. The group changes everything. Now that I sit here, his words come to my mind. It would have made absolutely sense to ask the neighbours if they please proceed to the next floors and do as I do. Well, as mentioned above, I was not thinking, I was acting.

Time for a cup of tea.

Monday 11 November 2013

Formerly known as red cabbage

You do remember the parsnip from two weeks ago?
By now all those lovely roots are history, like the rest of the harvest.

15 minutes of TLC and the parsnip looks like this:
Thank you, Mr Attila Hildmann, for inventing this easy, healthy dish. I would choose this dish over any fake meat, seitan, tempeh etc. Nothing beats the pure plant. Parsnip risotto with dried tomatoes, peas, onions, garlic, almond butter and topped with roasted almonds -  a quick treat after work.

One vegetable from the field has shown a surprising potential of morphosis. Over the past two weeks it has turned into something completely new. May I introduce, the plant, formerly known as red cabbage:
Due to the ongoing process I did not bear to cook it. The longer I waited, the more beautiful it became. Each morning it greeted me with new colours, surreal and in a perfect harmony. Who would I be to interrupt this piece of time-art?
And what were I going to miss, who knows how it continues? Well, now it is obviously to late for cooking anyway. Haha! 

It seems as if the wonders of the miracle harvest are never ending.
If you see what I see - an adorable aspect of nature -  then I can assure you that you are right place here. Because this sort of admiration is going to stay for some time.

Friday 8 November 2013

New Housing in Vienna


Believe it or not, but sometimes I do leave the kitchen. And then I come back, I have pictures in my pocket. Today the photos come with words. I would be very pleased find some comments with your opinion on this topic.
 All you need: blue skies, a balcony and the moon. See the moon?

What you can't see: on street level there is hardly any live in the buildings. No shops, no bakeries, cafes, libraries, meeting places or pharmacies, no cultural insitutions, no cinema, no swiming pool.
The new housing trend in Vienna can best described as "for residents only": inside the buildings you find plenty of common rooms, recreation rooms, semi-public kitchens, party rooms - all accessible with key only. You, as a resident, are invited to make use of those common rooms which are either located on the top floor, combined with a roof terrace (very attractive!) or on street level (not as attractive, but very convenient).
 Not too ... uplifting. I mean, it's so ... dense. 

New housing development in Vienna: left: still under construction, right: completed, rear: yet to come
Behind these buildings new buildings are going to be built and behind those buildings even more buildings are yet to come.

Inside the buildings you have a lot of "public-private-space" and you - as a resident - are invited to create a community in your house. Social workers and coaches assist the process from the very beginning. Only: you need more people to start a community. Combine 4 or 5 buildings and chances are that you will find enough people to carry on the community activites. 

A friend of mine recently moved into one of these buildings. I can tell you, she is upset. I met her today and she complained badly, because the community in her building does not exist at all. Her neighbours don't join the meetings, only a handful participates. 5 people joined the kick-off meeting - instead of possible 50 or even more. She was looking forward to experiencing this new housing in Vienna. Now she is disappointed.

Obviously 1 house does not provide enough people to create a critical mass that continues with the social activities after the kick-off, which has been supervised by coacheslong before the new residents had actually moved in. I fear the ambitious architects and developers got this wrong. Terribly wrong? Well, the worst thing that can happen is that the fancy common rooms will be and remain deserted.

I had a déjà-vue: those common rooms are the new saunas of the late 1970's. Back then every building had to have a sauna in the basement. Most of those saunas remained cold for decades.
Could someone please disabuse me in the near future and tell me about those fantastic recreation rooms, the things that are going on there and how those hundreds of expensive square-metres had been best thing that could have happen to any resident. Thank you! 

Why do I care so much about these unused common rooms? This is social housing, it costs an awful lot. Most of the money goes into the housing development, while the public space - besides this great park - is being neglected.
More housing. Makes me think of laying batteries. I know, I know... am a spoiled brat.

One word on the density: The developers say they have to build this dense, otherwise social housing is not affordable. The park is great no doubt. But can it fulfill all needs? I wonder what those tenthousands of people are going to do at home except sleep, eat and shower? A café would be nice. Maybe even a café where lectures are being held?
A Nordic Walking group could be a beginning.

Have a very social weekend! :-)

PS: I have to mention how much I enjoy my SIGMA DP2 Merrill camera. The atmosphere of this late November afternoon, shortly before sunset, the colours, the air .... You probably can't get closer to reality and still this camera "paints" photos. Over all it was a quiet atmosphere.
Btw, these are all photos I have taken. There is no 2nd, 3rd or 4th shot of the same motif. Taking photos with this camera gets really close to the real thing, you remember, film and so.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Iittala, you can't fool me!

One reason why I liked to buy Arabia dishes was the possibility to buy replacements or add some dishes to my "24h" collection.
In the past Arabia was Arabia until iittala bought Arabia and Arabia became iittala Arabia and everthing stayed the same.
Obviously everything stayed the same, take the 24h-cups for example.
But wait ... the new iittala Arabia's cup weight is almost 10% higher compared to the original Arabia cup.  In gold or silver these extra 10% would be a nice add on for the same price, but not so much when it comes to elegant off-white large cups.
Everytime I clear the dishwasher or pick a cup from the cupboard I sense the difference. The new old cup is a different design, sold under the same name. 10% wall thickness matters. Handles matter. The weight you hold in your hands – as the very first sensual experience in the morning, touching the cup with your lips, after a long night of sleep – matters.
Iittala, you can't fool me, because I am the woman who notices the not-so-obvious, as soon as I get my hands on your cups!