Monday, October 31, 2011

The secret recipe for marital bliss

Bribery ;-P But seriously, Mr. C is such a sweet tooth, I can barely keep up. As part of our resolution to live healthier, we have stopped buying processed sweets and treats. Which means I'm always baking one thing or another.
I'm always looking for simple recipes and about a year ago I found this one on Jamie Oliver's web page: bloomin' brilliant brownies.

If I haven't already told you this, let me state it here: Jamie Oliver is my first cooking guru. I learned to cook from his books when I first moved out on my own and could barely boil an egg. His approach to cooking and philosophy of using the best ingredients to make simple but delicious meals is a winning combination.

One thing you need to know about his recipes though: Jamie uses way to much salt, oil and sugar. As a rule of thumb I always divide the required amount by two. This brownie recipe being no exception. So now you have one of two choices, you can either click the link and follow Jamie's recipe or you can read through this post and follow my revised recipe. There's always the option of devising your own recipe and ignoring this post completely.

My revised recipe for bloomin' brownies:
  • 5 medium eggs,
  • 180g wholewheat flour,
  • 1 packet of baking powder (cca. 1 teaspoon),
  • 2 packets of real vanilla sugar (mine is actual vanilla seeds mixed with raw sugar, none of that synthetic stuff) If you can't get it substitute with a vanilla pod,
  • 80g brown sugar or equal amount of honey,
  • 80g cocoa powder,
  • 250g coconut oil, 400g dark chocolate,
  • 350g sour cherries (this amount is completely optional, I usually get one can of sour cherries)


Depending on how fast your oven is, preheat it to 180 C / 350 F. I've gotten so good at timing the whole procedure, I know exactly when to turn the oven on, so by the time I'm done mixing my batch the oven is ready almost simultaneously. (Trying to be ecological!)

Begin by beating the eggs thoroughly in a mixer. Slowly add all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, vanilla sugar, sugar (or honey) leaving the cocoa powder till last. Because it's so fine, the potential to make a huge mess is great. I usually reduce the mixer speed to the lowest and add the cocoa powder in small amounts.

If you believe in microwaves, the next step is super simple: combine chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl and let the microwave melt the two together. The old-fashioned way to get the job done: use a pan or a skillet to melt them. In the beginning it wasn't uncommon for me to burn the chocolate. I've since learned that because coconut oil has a higher melting point, I pop it in the pan first, let it melt completely and then slowly add the chocolate.

Let the mixture cool for a bit and then add it to the mixer. Scape it all in and then mix at the highest speed for about a minute. The whole batch should go from a wet lump to a smooth silky almost pudding like consistency. At that point drain your sour cherries and add them to the brownie mixture. Gently mix it in with a spatula.

Transfer the whole gooey mass into a well greased pan. Mine is ceramic, a preference really, any pan is good. And pop it in the oven.

Here comes the trickiest part: determining if the brownies are done. Brownies unlike cake have to be moist on the inside, so I usually let them bake for 22 minutes before checking them. Jamie suggested giving the pan a light shake, the brownies should shake a little when they're done. Which is after a bout 25 to 28 minutes of baking. Again entirely depending on your preference.

After baking the brownies it's time to be frugal and make some lollipops as well. I used to discard the sour cherries juice until it hit me that I could do something with it. Lollipops are ridiculously easy to make and way healthier than any store bought ice-cream.

All you need is the juice from sour cherries, a spoon of honey and a squirt of lemon juice. Mix it together, pour it into the lollipop molds and pop it in the freezer. Use more lemon if you want the lollipops to be more refreshing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bits of wisdom

Creativity is seldom the result of abundance.
my own

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday night film selection: Le divorce

After yesterday's debate on essentials and underwear, I was reminded of this gem of a film:

Le divorce received quite a lot of bad reviews and was generally badly received. In my opinion this is largely due to the fact that the film was improperly advertised as a romantic comedy. And people going in the theatres expecting to see something like: How to loose a guy in 10 days (starring Hudson again) or Monster-in-Law (Jennifer Lopez this time) were of course disappointed and confused.
I rented this movie for a girls-get-together film night, fully expecting something light with a predictable storyline, something not requiring my full attention. Turns out this is not the kind of film you want to watch when you just want something easy to pass the time.
This is not a romantic comedy, it's more like a social drama with cynical inserts and stereotypes of the French as well as the Americans.
As far as the story goes it's a bit unstructured and I really liked it because of it. In that aspect it has a feel of Robert Altman's Pret-a-porter. Where the focus isn't on the story itself but rather on the interactions of some genuinely quirky and eccentric characters.
As for the stereotypes, they're just that. I've read somewhere the French were offended. Which is silly, because the film portrays some all time favourite stereotypes about Americans as well. It's all just some innocent fun.
As far as favourite scenes go, the one in the clip is definitely it. Isabelle goes shopping for underwear to La Perla no less. If you can just ignore the obvious question of where did she come up with the money for it (this is still fiction after all!) it's truly a very funny scene.

Trailer provided by Video Detective

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shopping for essentials: items that fall in the "money is no object" philosophy

In an ideal situation money and that ugly word budget would never come into play when deciding what to buy. Our wardrobes would boast nothing but the finest suits made of super 140s wool, alpaca sweaters and Camel Hair coats. Real life and financial limitations force us to be realistic.
When forced to cut back, I am most likely to compromise on everything except three things: underwear, footwear and outerwear. Without exception my wardrobe holds nothing but the best I could afford in these three categories.
Okay, except two pairs of flip flops bought for peanuts. I really have no intention of shelling out 100 € on a pair of plastic thongs from (insert a high end brand here) ______. Other than the logo, the level of comfort is probably equal to that of a pair of drug store flip flops. Not to mention they're both made in  China anyway.

Missoni flip flops

Moving on.

Underwear is the most obvious choice. It comes into closest contact with our skin so it's paramount it be made of comfortable preferably natural material, allowing the skin to breathe. You won't find any lacy culottes in my underwear drawer!
Anything that requires hand washing has been expunged from my closet as well. Yes, it's saucy and sexy, but I prefer an infection and eczema free groin area.

Vegetarian sneakers

Footwear is next. And it's become quite customary, even expected for women to covet, own and spend an obscene amount of money on shoes. Owning quality footwear doesn't equal a mortgage down payment tied up in a closet full of Manolos and Louboutins!
Our feet need proper support since they carry our weight around and high heel shoes don't cut it.

And finally: outerwear. Unless you live in a moderate climate that doesn't require coats and parkas you are no doubt well acquainted with the nuisance that accompanies bad weather. The cold, the snow and the chilling damp air.
Outerwear must be able to protect us from all this. It must also be light, durable and comfortable. Quality outerwear is probably the most expensive purchase of all. But if you take good care of your coat, it can last a decade.

Sportmax F/W 2011 runway

As you can see my list of essentials is pretty short. Minute actually. I'm not saying that other items are irrelevant and paying good money on say pants or a handbag is money wasted. I'm merely scaling the list to absolute, bare essentials in the sudden death style of either or.
As always, I'm very interested in your opinion. Do you agree with my list or not? And if so, why?

Versace parka
And for the record I like to wear my sneakers with my coat and my wedge boots with my parka. To mix it up a bit :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Precious things/ 10 Literary journal

Last Thursday I wrote about the concept of putting thoughts on paper as part of my blogging process.
And I continually write about how happy notebooks make me. Though I've never kept a journal, I do have something that is as close to a journal as possible: my literary journal.

By far the most private thing I've ever shown on my blog. This inconspicuous notebook bound in fake leather holds the key to my personality, my thoughts and inspiration. It's a collage of poetry, proverbs, even jokes along with newspaper clippings and photos.

Every word, every transcription has been done by hand. Looking back on some of the things I've written is like hopping in a time machine. I remember when and why most of these entries were written.

And though I have occasionally shown certain excerpts to several people, I've never let anyone read it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Signs it's going to be a bad day

  • You wake up a good two hours before the alarm. Wander around the apartment aimlessly, surf the net. Finally fall asleep exhausted. Sleep through the alarm. Wake up at 11.
  • Sleep through the alarm for no reason. Wake up at 11.

  • Wake up at 5 in the morning to the sound of cat scratching the furniture, barfing fur balls, digging for oil in the litter box, etc. Sleep through the alarm. Wake up at 11.
  • First morning coffee didn't work. Have one more. Doesn't work either. Gives you stomachache.
  • It's ironing day. Any explanation needed?
  • Receive another rejection letter.

  • Being harassed by a telemarketer eager to promote their wonderful retirement savings plan.
  • Drop a loaded tray of beads and jewellery components on the floor.
  • Write a great post on blogger. Computer freezes. Loose everything.

  • Your favourite t-shirt/shoes/bag has gone to pots.
  • You make an effort to go running. Put on your workout clothes, shoes and everything. Just as you're on your way out, it starts pouring cats and dogs.

All photos were taken at Ljubljana Zoo on one wonderful sunny day in May 2011.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday night film selection: Misery

Yesterday I was watching a very old show by today's standards: 3rd Rock from the Sun. There was one episode featuring Kathy Bates as the cheery yet sinister looking housewife who turns out to be a psychopath. And I was instantly reminded of Misery.
It's been at least 7 years since I last saw it and yet even after all these years it's still one of the best thrillers ever made.
The set is almost stage like, with only two characters for the most part and one location. The story of a popular writer (played by James Caan) who is "rescued" from a car crash by a deranged fan could have easily flopped. But Kathy Bates' performance as Annie is mesmerizing. Chilling and horrifying.
The atmosphere these two actors have created is astounding. As a viewer one can so easily associate with Paul and the desperate situation he's facing. And Annie, with her conservative demeanor and God fearing attitude, then suddenly snapping into a maniacal rage...brilliant.
A number of films have been made since misery trying to cash in on the winning combination of secluded surroundings, deranged maniacal killers and victims helplessly trapped. All duds in my opinion. Even after 20 years Misery remains one of the best films in the thriller genre.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's snowing!

Can you believe this? Just this morning it was raining and then around midday it turned into snow and hasn't stopped since.
If it keeps up, I might have to get my boots out of storage! How's the weather in your corner of the World?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blogger culture: The creative process

having coffee and waiting for a friend

I just can't seem to get enough of this topic. On today's menu: how do you come up with your posts?
I like to keep a notebook and a pen with me at all times. I've always found it easier to write and re-type my posts.
I frequently take the bus into town to run errands or meet up with friends. It's a 50 minutes ride in relative comfort and I find it relaxing to sit and write in my notebook. I can write up to two posts in the time it takes to reach the bus station. Something I've never been able to do at home sitting and starring at my computer screen. Somehow computer screen give me writer's blockage. Even when I wrote my thesis, I wrote about 70% percent on paper first and re-typed it later.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today I covet...

Starting off Monday on a whiny note ;-)
Make no mistake, I don't need these, I already have more than enough shoes. However, a pair of black lace oxfords would fit perfectly into my current style preference.

Briony shoes
None the less I am determined not to buy any new shoes until the old ones are thoroughly worn out. Which means I'm good until spring.
What about you, dear readers? Pining over anything?

Friday, October 14, 2011

No film tonight...

I'm off to have coffee with a friend in Ljubljana.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Staycation road trip: Klagenfurt and Minimundus, July 2011

The final installment of summer road trips:

Statue of Liberty

Way back in July when Mr. C and me were deciding how to spend our staycation fortnight, I expressed a wish to go to Minimundus, an entertainment park located just outside Klagenfurt near the Wörthersee lake.

Borobudur, buddist temple in Indonesia and me wearing the glasses that have since broke

Minimundus houses around 150 models of famous structures from around the World. Some modern, some from ancient times that no longer exist today.
Mr. C joked it was a very economical tour of the World and a fast one too! So off we went one sunny, slightly humid day in July.

Vatican city

The park is amazing to say the least. Immaculate and full of greenery and flower arrangements. On our three hour tour we saw at least half a dozen employees working on the models, cleaning the exhibits or pruning the flower beds.
Everyone was nice and accommodating. The atmosphere was very relaxed.

Minimundus' residents

The carps in the shallow lake were very friendly and also a bit ronde. I think they get fed a lot by the tourists!

overview of a portion of the park

The staff goes to great length to reproduce the models with extreme accuracy, whenever possible the same material is used for the model as was used for the actual structure.

CN Tower, Toronto

After we've seen everything in Minimundus, we went to...three guesses? No? Okay, we went to Ikea. There isn't one in Slovenia, so this is an opportunity not to miss. We bought some stuff for our apartment as well as some things requested by friends and relatives. And  we had lunch there too.

Queen Maria Theresa

Making the most of our trip, we decided to pop into Klagenfurt as well. No maps or guide books, we winged it. Followed the road signs and managed (with only one U-turn) to land smack in the middle of the centre.

By now the weather had turned sour. All the humidity resulted in an afternoon storm, so we sought refuge in a cafe. Had some coffee and after a good 30 minutes the rain stopped so we were able to walk around for another hour.

Mr. C and the Wörthersee Mandl, a mythical creature who supposedly created the Lake Wörthersee
I think we managed to see a lot in the three hours we spent in Klagenfurt that day, but next time I'll be bringing a map and a guide book with me. That way, I'll have a better overview of the centre and at least some background on the history and architecture.
Since Klagenfurt is only an hour and a half away from us, I expect we'll be venturing out there soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Having fun with muslin part 3: Making a light tent

With Lili & Flor up and running on Etsy it became essential to focus on the photography issue. Let's be honest, selling products can be overwhelming and scary for the seller as well as the customer. Product photos have to be accurate and maintain an honest representation of the product at the same time they have to convey some sort of aesthetic message.
Most of us have some pretty basic point and shot cameras which can lead to some disastrous photos. So we have to get creative. Light box tutorial can be found all over the net, I particularly like the tutorial from Oh she glows. What can I say? I'm a sucker for cute models ;-P
The problem with light boxes is that they are clumsy and huge. I needed something that was either small or collapsible. A light tent was the perfect solution.
The materials needed to make a light tent:
  1. 4 aluminum rods 50 cm in length (a)
  2. 2 aluminum rods 30 cm in length (b)
  3. 2 aluminum rods 70 cm in length (c)
  4. 4 triangular connectors
  5. 4 leg caps
  6. 3 lights with screw on attachments
  7. 2m of muslin fabric or chiffon gauze
  8. extra fabric or paper in the colour of your choosing for the background

Mr. C (aka the mastermind behind this DIY) bought two long aluminum rods that were cut to size and the edges filled to a smooth finish.
Which means the measurement we decided on are completely arbitrary and you can choose your own dimensions providing you follow the basic logic of assembling a rectangle or a cube.

Leg caps aren't really essential components but it's wise to buy them and attach them to the legs of the frame to prevent any scratching of the work surface.

leg caps

These lights were cheap, meet all the requirements ie. can be attached to the frame and the bonus part: they come in this nice neutral steel colour and match the frame.
Always a nice addition to have things match.

And muslin. This is the exact same muslin I bought at Ikea and have used for my previous muslin adventures: Part 1 and Part 2.

And now for the actual work part: assemble the frame using the rods and the connectors. Attach caps to the bottom and well that's pretty much it.

Cover the frame with muslin:

Add the background fabric, attach the lights and start snapping away!

We've used the light tent to take quite a few picture now and I'm still not completely satisfied with the light exposure. The light tent photos do however turn out much better than regular ones, the colour of the jewellery is very accurate. There is no glaring and the light is very soft.
After taking the photo of the finished light tent I realized I forgot to edge stitch the muslin to prevent fraying which I'll probably get around to late in the evening.

harvest season necklace
 The top photo is a typical light tent result: soft light but just a bit too dark I think. Maybe time to adjust the camera light exposure settings?
Will report back.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Blogger culture: followers, readers and Google stats

Another foray into the curious and intricate world of blogging. I've already addressed one aspect of blogging peculiarities here. Today I'll be discussing popularity and on-line presence.
It might sound absurd and hypocritical, being a blogger myself I do have a slight aversion to blogging in general. The main question in relation to blogging is why write one, a public blog I mean?

Is it a need for attention, the desperate desire to seek approval wherever one might find it? Is it a mere entrepreneurial endeavour. An attempt to attain the  elusive and highly coveted position of a professional blogger. Somebody who writes a blog for a living and gets free stuff to advertise.
I can only answer for myself. I write a public blog for several reasons.
Most importantly I write a blog because it's a way for me to connect with like minded people. Slovenes are a peculiar nation and there are times when I find that my hobbies and interests and my general view on life philosophy are completely misunderstood. It's for this reason that I chose to write my blog in English.
As for approval, do I seek it? Well of course I do! To some extent. If I didn't I wouldn't be writing a public blog. And anyone claiming otherwise is being dishonest in my opinion.
We all like to see our posts generating lots of comments or at least hits. Every time I log into my account and see I've gained another follower my heart does a little dance :-) I also check my blogger stats on a regular basis to get a sense of which posts generate the most hits and where my readers come from.
That said, at the bottom of all the stats and the popularity is a basic premise of authenticity. I strive to give an honest and realistic portrait of myself and my life.
Though there is a large aspect of my life I keep off the Internet for reasons of privacy whether mine or my family, the things I ultimately share are genuine. I also try to maintain a balance between the flashy and glamorous and the mundane everyday life aspects.