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Thursday, 28 March 2013

confession #000030

... or, throwback thursday

yeah! i hit the big 3-0 in terms of posts on this blog.  i guess it is somewhat of a milestone seeing as i'm not one of the most regular of bloggers.  today also calls for another little celebration: it's my eighth year at my current workplace and thanks to this job (which i truly have a passion for, as i suppose my colleagues can confirm), i get to visit quite a few places around europe.  and in celebration of this, i've decided that today's post will be all about one of the cities i visited quite recently for one of my meetings: paris. let's say that in pure hashtag fashion, this will also be the first #throwbackthursday and let nostalgia lead the way. 

i visited paris last december for the first time.  to be quite frank, i'm not actually sure if i would consider going again.  i suppose i had a mild bout of paris syndrome or it was just a collection of occurrences which came together to make me somewhat disillusioned about the city.  but let's not start on such a negative note. 

i spent a total of four days, arriving on saturday and leaving on tuesday, with the last two days being taken up by my work meetings. this allowed me almost 2 days to see the sites.  admittedly, this was not much time, but it was enough to get a good impression of the city of lights. i opted to stay in the montmartre area, with the aim of being inspired by all the artists who walked along the same streets i would be traipsing on, and also because it was the closest arrondisement to the meeting venue just outside paris. 

i first headed to the sacré-cœur basilica and the famous steps leading to it where practically all parisian youth congregate, and not just.  the place was replete with tourists enjoying the sun in the otherwise cold day.  i must admit it was quite a struggle making my way down the steps to reach the heart of montmartre and its quaint shops and cafes.  the next place which i visited was the cafe des deux moulins, which any amelie fan must, absolutely, visit.  this was my personal little mecca and i wouldn't have left paris before visiting it. the place is exactly like it was in the film, save for the fact that it was full of tourists who were obviously as intent as i was to have a coffee there.  

following that i walked on to galeries lafayette and the shops around boulevard hausmann.  honestly, i was not prepared for what i was to face.  i'm not sure if it was the louis vuitton christmas shop windows or the fact that i timed my visit to galeries lafayette when all the coach tours were visiting but it was a nightmare to get in, a nightmare to shop and a nightmare to get out.  i had to queue for a good twenty minutes at the longchamp shop to get the pliage totes which i was intent on laying my paws on. over the years, i've come to the realisation that i'm not good with crowds.  despite being in the mecca of luxury shopping, all i could think of was to get out. not one for going out in the evenings on my own, that was pretty much my saturday done. 

sunday called for my personal grand tour du paris. i caught a taxi from my hotel to the notre dame area and headed off to the shakespeare and company bookshop, which much to my dismay was still closed (that's what you get for being an early bird).  i returned there at the end of my tour and i could feel the spirit of kerouac and other great literary figures still present there. i then headed off to the notre dame  du paris itself and strolled along rue de rivoli until i got to the louvre. unfortunately there was no way i would manage to go in with all the visitors queuing but at least i could peruse the grounds. i kept on walking along rue de rivoli until place de la concorde where i then turned into avenue des champs-élysées.  i don't meant to lessen any of its charm and allure, but most big cosmopolitan cities have big, high-end shopping streets.  champs-élysées is yet another one. 

once i got to l'arc de triomphei found i needed to give my feet a rest and took a rick-shaw ride to trocadero to see the eiffel tower and then got dropped off at the invalides.  a quick tour of the grounds and then i headed off to the rodin museum where i enjoyed an hour or so, touring the museum and gardens. following that, i decided to start heading back to my starting point and walked along the rive gauche or southern bank of the seine.  i loved the little vintage books and prints stalls all along the bank and my two regrets are (a) not getting a vintage print of paris and (b) not queuing to go into the musée d'orsay when i walked by it (there was a fashion in 18th / 19th century art exhibition going on). when i decided to call it a day, i found a taxi to take me back to the hotel to prepare for the next two days full of meetings. 

as you may have noticed, i practically walked all the way or caught taxis.  the reason i opted for this approach is two-fold: firstly, i generally enjoy seeing places i've never been to on foot as i find that that's the best way to experience the real city (i wouldn't have spotted half of the space invader graffitis had i caught a site-seeing bus!).  secondly, i'll quote the various taxi drivers in their description of my hotel's area: "oh, dangeur! wahrninng! 'ot, 'ot area!" (you have to imagine these being spoken in a thick french accent to get why i purposely misspelt some words!) i had chosen the hotel purely on the basis that i would be in the same place as one of my foreign colleagues; however, i had not paid attention to the fact that the area was not the most savoury.  the hotel as well, turned out to be rather disappointing.  upon my arrival, i was told that the elevator was not working and had to get help to take my luggage up three flights of winding stairs.  there was no way i would go out alone at night and there were no restaurants in the hotel or nearby so sunday night i ended up calling pizza hut! my breakfast on the last day was cut short because the receptionist could only help me with the luggage (yes, the lift was still out of order) in a 5 minute time window where his shift overlapped with the next guy's.  i suppose, the elevator issue can be overlooked as a case of bad timing, but i certainly would not recommend the area nor the hotel to anyone i'm afraid. 

all in all, my trip to paris was as full of ups and downs as the streets in montmartre.  if i close my mind's eye to the negative bits, i did get to 'see' all that i wanted to see and in all truth and fairness, the central arrondissements are truly charming.  i doubt there's an ideal season when it's best to visit paris if throngs of tourists are not your cup of tea.  but if you do go, my little recommendation is to plan what you want to see in the time that you have, and to walk.  there are little gems round every corner and you won't get to see them otherwise, trust me. 

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

confession #000029

...or, petite pleasures

being short has its advantages.  i'm not sure how many they are, but they are there, i promise.  

fair enough, the fact that people pick on you because of height, any extra kilogram - nay, milligram - shows up immediately as it doesn't have anywhere to spread, and the fact that practically all clothes need to be hemmed, may not make life as rosy as one would like. but still. 

after years of being the shortest in the group (whichever group i was in, i was always the shortest), i've finally learnt how to accept my lack of height and look at the positives as much as i can.  i've learnt to take note more of those who find my lack of height endearing (in maltese we use the word jiggustawni) rather than those who make fun of it.  and besides - no offense to the tall girls out there: you are the ones who can walk down a catwalk, not me - i'd much rather be my height than towering over everyone else, including my better half! maybe i'm a hopeless romantic, but i love the fact that i'm small enough to be enveloped in his hug rather than have it the other way round.  

as i mentioned earlier, clothing when you're blessed with my height, does come with a few challenges.  and i like nothing better than a challenge.  if you're in my below 5' height range, allow me to let you in on a few secrets to make the clothing issue a thing of the past: 
  • shop: yes, shopping petite can be a struggle and i know that in malta there are very few shops which stock petite sizes, and most times these are limited in range.  but girl, there's online stores as well! asos usually has a good range and luckily they stock some items in both regular and petite ranges.  topshop also stock a good petite range and i'm sure there are other sites.  be wary though: check before or do a test buy to see if the online store you're shopping at understands petite in the same way as you do.  some stores may stock only sizes 4 and 6 as petite and not regular 8, 10, etc but with shorter proportions.

  • cheat: regular calf-length or ankle-length trousers make for perfect full-length trousers for us shorties. and you don't have to worry about hems either, or losing out on the intended trouser leg shape.  another option is actually to look at youth and children's clothes - but steer clear of anything which is too obviously 'young'.  you do want to look youthful, but not in a 'mutton dressed as lamb' kind of way.  when taking this approach, you also have to be wary of logos or brand names which would give away the fact you're wearing kids' clothes.  scotch r'belle make some fantastic kids clothes that i sometimes like more than the maison scotch range (evidenced by this morning's online purchase). 
  • trick: the french have that gorgeous sounding expression trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) which is something that every petite lass or lad should know about and should learn how to master.  one of the main trends this season is stripes, preferably vertical.  use them to your advantage! vertical stripes create the illusion of length.  i'm not advocating head-to-toe stripes but find that area of your body which you want to 'lengthen' and wear them there.  avoid colour blocking as that will cut up your already small figure into smaller bits but opt for ton-sur-ton (oh, i love the french for these expressions) to make the silhouette appear leaner and longer.  use shoes that are of the same colour as the trousers or hosiery you are wearing and if you're going bare legged, stick to nude coloured shoes or at least to colours that do not jar with your complexion.  

  • props: and by that i mean accessories. these should become your bff's, no questions asked.  keep away from ruffles, frills, peplums as these will only add bulk - and we don't want bulk on our petite shapes.  on the contrary look out for simpler cuts in dresses and tops and accessorize these with statement necklaces or earrings.  hair pulled back or in a top-knot adds the illusion of height, as does a trusty trilby hat.  go crazy with oversized bags as these will (a) help you conceal any bits you don't like in the tum-thigh-butt region and (b) allow you to create an interplay between your tiny shape and the bag's corpulence. 
and finally ...
  • strut: who says that because you're short, you can't walk as though you own the runway, or the corridor at least.  square your shoulders and tilt them backwards, lift your chin and keep your back straight (gosh, i sound like my mom) and walk the walk, baby.  whether you're in flats or heels, keeping a straight posture while walking or sitting will immediately make you look taller - and, will straighten out any tummy-tires which would become so evident when you're slouching. 

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

confession #000028

... or, a list of top threes

the top three women whose looks i wish i could steal
l-r: zooey deschanel, marion cotillard, anne hathaway

the top three male actors who can be in the worst of films but i would watch just the same
l-r: robert downey jnr, dominic cooper, jake m johnson

the top three women whose secrets to graceful ageing i want to discover
l-r: ines de la fressange, helen mirren, judi dench

the top three funny men who can keep repeating their material but i laugh every time i hear them
l-r: russell howard, jon richardson, jack whitehall

Saturday, 23 March 2013

confession #000027

... or, the reckoning

now that i have somewhat come back to my senses after a much needed sleep and morning lie-in, after a late night flight from berlin back to krakow, i am fulfilling my two promises: (a) that of getting back to  my diet regime and (b) that of writing a bit more about my trip. 

so, starting with (a), this morning was back to a calorie-counted breakfast of crackerbreads, low-fat cottage cheese and soy-based sausage slices.  the latter might not sound very appetizing, but for vegetarians who were not brought up as such and who do reminisce about the tastes of ham, mortadella and salami, these are a very good - and tasty - substitute, with the advantage of being very low in calories.  luckily in poland there is this brand which produces them and i've recently discovered a health food shop close to the flat which supplies them so i've no excuse!  i do hope to manage through the day with this resumed stamina as i've a whole truck-load of cup-cakes to bake for a party tonight.  lord give me strength to resist the party food and alcohol!

looking back at my stay in berlin over the past couple of days, i confess that by the end of it, i was dead tired and just wanted to get home.  it's not that i don't like berlin. far from it.  but since i had only a few hours to spare, i hadn't planned any sight seeing of any sort and just strolled up and down friedrichstrasse ad nauseum.  yes, i did get nauseous at one point just aimlessly looking at clothes and trying them on.  i never thought it could happen but it did.  i'll admit that by my standards, i may have over-shopped, but it was mostly little things so hopefully i didn't blow my budget (i still have to do my calculations on that ...).  friedrichstrasse is excellent for shopping primarily because of its two main department stores - quartier 206 and galeries lafayette - which stock mostly designer and high-end brands.  to complement these department stores, there's about 3 h&m stores as i had mentioned, as well as brands such as esprit, gerry weber, massimo dutti and zara which may be more affordable for us common mortals.  there is also a cos store, which, admittedly, as a brand, i had never paid much attention to.  i ventured in and fell in love with their minimalist, easy style.  since one of my staple looks is a buttoned-up shirt peeking from underneath jumpers / sweaters / dresses, i couldn't stop myself from buying a scallop collared mock-shirt.  i could immediately envisage it worn with most of my outfits and accessorized with one of the statement necklaces i have.  

to give myself a little break from shopping, i walked up to checkpoint charlie which is one of the main landmarks in berlin's topography, and history.  there are still remains of the berlin wall in this area, and i actually came across a very strong open air exhibition consisting of murals on remnants of the wall.  these depicted the world's dictators, including muammar ghaddafi and kim jong-il, who, albeit deceased, their negative legacy is still very much present.  the exhibition is the type of art that i enjoy - art with a purpose, with a message to impart, art which triggers that uncomfortable emotion which shocks you out of the inertia of mundanity. the title of the exhibition itself - more walls to tear down - was very fitting.  this exhibition alone, made my stay complete. 

as you might have noticed, i've once again changed the look of the blog to a cleaner, fresher one, with a hit of neon which is something i'm obsessing about at the moment (more on that on another day!).  i hope you like it! but now, i'm afraid i have to get going with my baking or there won't be any cup-cakes for tonight's party.  

getting bored waiting for my flight to berlin
art, art everywhere ... even in the food presentation

nice and snowy berlin

a little treat for myself - macaron day at galeries lafayette did not help!

just 'some' of the haul

upper east side berlin, like walking on a gossip girl set (well, not quite!) 
gorgeous building on friedrichstrasse 

another gorgeous building, quite different from the one above, but which shows the melting pot of cultures and architectural styles this city can flaunt

murals on berlin wall remnants

such an evocative mural exhibition

keeping cosy at starbucks

not a landmark, but surely a sight synonymous to the city

studded collar and statement necklace - more is more

2 great days which resulted in my mind brimming with ideas.  my colleagues will kill me. 

victoria beckham dress at quartier 206 - the stuff of my dreams

this guy has style - neon lime socks popping out of a very preppy look

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

confession #000026

... or, breakfast like a queen

oh god, i've done it.  i've done that which i was so hoping to avoid doing.  i pigged out in that most typical 'maltese family at an 'eat as much as you like' buffet'.  and i'm feeling the worse for it. 

i've just got back from the breakfast at the maritim proarte berlin hotel where i'm staying for these couple of nights.  in all truth and fairness, the abundance and variety at this breakfast somewhat triggers you into indulgence.  whether you're a carnivore, herbivore, health freak or sweeth-toothed individual, you're sure to find something to tickle your taste buds. 

as a lactose intolerant vegetarian, i could have opted for soy yoghurt and soy milk.  instead, i decided to have one of my lactase pills which help me digest milk products and had my way with the 'real' dairies on display.  well, i did opt for the bio / organic yoghurt, goat cheese and brie versions ... but still.  tomorrow morning, i promise, i will opt for the soy versions - and other healthy stuff, i.e. less or no bread, more fruit, no fried mushrooms or baked beans ... and no pancake with nutella to end on a sweet note.  promise.  

as some of you know, at the moment i'm conducting a little find-out on where i should take this blog.   if you haven't yet answered my little questionnaire, i would greatly appreciate if you do so here.  from the feedback received so far, more outfit and travel posts are being requested ... so i'm going to be pro-active about it and let you in on a few travel points about this trip, as well as some outfit shots.  hope you enjoy them!

basically, this is the second time i'm visiting berlin and i'm lucky enough to be here for a practical seminar on social media which i need for my full time work, and which honestly speaking, interests me very much from a personal perspective as well.  i'm staying at the maritim proarte which is on friedrichstrasse - the main shopping street in berlin.  i couldn't have asked for a better location! the hotel is just a 5 - 10 minute walk from galerie lafayette and 3 h&m stores so i'm pretty much in heaven! 

having just a few hours to spare during this stay, i don't have much time to visit the sites.  i had done that about a year ago when i first came to berlin, though i must admit that in such a historic and culturally diverse city, i'm sure i haven't managed to cover them all.  i'll write an entire post on the 'must-go' sites in berlin another day as i soon have to go to register and start my first day of the seminar.  some little points about the hotel and its location though before i go ... the hotel itself is pretty fantastic:  the room i'm in has just about everything you can ask for (though i did request an additional, firmer pillow!) and the front desk staff are very kind and friendly.  i think the only thing i'm not keen on in this hotel is the over-abundance of art pieces which welcome you in the lobby and as you walk along the floors to the rooms.  i mean, i love art, especially modern and contemporary, but the sheer abundance of pieces, battling for attention, render it more of a cluttered art shop than a contemporary art space.  i'm not really sure which look the hotel designer was going for, but i suppose s/he wanted to live up to the 'proarte' tag in the hotel's name.  

as i said earlier, i'm here on work-related training, so while the atmosphere at these events tends to be a little more relaxed, an element of professionalism still needs to be retained.  that is why i chose to wear dark skinny jeans and a boxy tuxedo blazer for the first day.  i find the blazer-jeans combo to be such a 'safe' combination that you just can't go wrong with it.  i teamed these with my burberry brit vest - since i'm in the so called 'upper east side berlin' - and leopard print flats.  being (very) short, i could have done with some heels but lately i'm opting more for flats and saving heels for occasions which really call for them.  i decided to pull my hair in a low ponytail, to retain a little air of professionalism about the look (and not give much prominence to my more hipster dip-dye!).  also, i find that blazers tend to look better with hair pulled back or in a top knot, thereby emphasizing structured shoulders and making the look an altogether cleaner one. 

blazer: miss selfridge; vest: burberry brit; jeggings: suite blanco; leopard print pumps: h&m (i'm not proud of the black stockings peeping out but a girl needs to keep warm somehow!); leopard print earrings: h&m; ring: independent store

ok, it's actually time for me to start heading off to the welcome coffee but i promise to write more about this trip later today or tomorrow. have a good day my lovelies xx

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

confession #000025

... or, the sleep deception

i have a feeling that overtiredness and insomnia have joined forces last night.  despite having an early start to catch a flight back to krakow - make that two actually, with all the hassles of baggage pick-up, second baggage drop-off, second security control, and the occasional air pocket - i could not manage to fall soundly asleep, despite the obvious fatigue. the result is my being online since 04:30 this morning, sporting a pair of luggage sized bags under my eyes. 

in all fairness (and to my defence, in a way), i haven't been just aimlessly browsing.  the quiet morning hours can still be somewhat productive.  even though i have barely unpacked from yesterday's travel, i am already planning my packing for the next trip this wednesday.  i'm off to some work-related training which i'm very much looking forward to, both out of work and personal interest. another plus is the fact that it's in berlin - a city which i've already been to and quite like actually.  alright, alright, it's not up there with my personal top three: krakow (duh!), prague and ljubliana, but it's somewhere on the lines of london and brussels where, if you manage to avoid the tourist traps or the hustle and bustle of daily cosmopolitan life, you're in for a few quirky and interesting surprises.  

the weather for next week seems to promise some more inclement days, but (un)luckily, i'll be spending most of my days away inside.  ever since i discovered polyvore, i tend to start my travel planning there. i usually look up the one item which i'd be dead set on packing for the trip, and work the rest of the outfits around it.  i always try to find the exact items i own or, the closest to.  for instance, the black boxy blazer featured in the set below is river island, whereas the one i own is exactly the same but miss selfridge.  likewise with the jeans - mine are stradivarius, while these are mango, but they're essentially the same.  planning online first, allows me to make the actual packing procedure much quicker since i'd already know what to fish out of the wardrobe.  also, since it's still the early hours of the day, and the mister is still fast asleep (bless him!) i don't want to be rummaging around and wake him up. 
check out the individual items here
as you darling followers know, initially this blog was meant to document my umpteenth attempt at weight loss.  this journey is somewhat proving to be a tad more difficult that i hoped for it to be.  firstly, the regular travelling between poland and malta means that every time i go back to the motherland, i go back to lovely home-cooked traditional meals which are not necessarily diet-friendly.  mind you, i'm not complaining and if mum is reading this: please do not stop pampering me with your lovely meals! there is also the fact that certain things are just not found here in poland.  there's no pastizzi, qassatat, pizza tac-champs, mqaret, figolli, kwarezimal ... all things that i would usually not give much thought to, but when their availability is somewhat scarce if non-existent, become objects of unbridled craving.  after two weeks of indulgence, i find myself ridden with guilt at having sabotaged myself, yet again!

and this week won't be any easier.  airport / airline food, hotel breakfasts, buffet lunches and coffee breaks ... where can i find some discipline to stick to just the healthier, low-fat, low calorie options? can i buy discipline online? does it do next day - nay, immediate - shipping? whenever i'm having a hotel breakfast i catch myself sneering at the other guests around me eating yoghurt and fruit while i'm scoffing a buttery croissant after having already eaten a toast or some cereal.  where do they get that stamina to say no to trying just about everything on display? if anyone knows the answer, please do let me know ... 

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Friday, 15 March 2013

confession #000024

... or, the short term nostalgia

it's the end of two long weeks on the island and despite knowing that, god willing, tomorrow I'll be back to what I'm now calling home, my heart is breaking out of pure homesickness.

yes, in a few months, I've managed to accustom myself to the Polish way of life that I can't help but make a little list of things I'm yearning to get back to. so here goes:

1: living with my partner, and not with my parents
2: the snow
3: shops, including services such as grocers and post offices open till 10pm
4: tram rides
5: Rynek Główny
6: my Polish lessons
7: pierogi kapusta y grzybami
8: the softness of the Polish language with all it's 'sh' and 'owm' and 'ewm' sounds
9: the quietness of the neighbours who won't shout to draw each others attention in the street
10: my miserable attempts at speaking Polish to the postmen and cashiers at the grocers'
11: the time I have, to actually cook and not just get takeouts
12: the variety of shops and ease of purchases with buy online pick up in store systems
13: my spa gloves and socks which I left there and hence because of my negligence, my hands and feet are like sandpaper
14: it may be cold but it's a dry, bearable cold
15: I get to wear my faux fur jacket and all my hats and beanies which I don't wear in Malta

I'm sure that there are plenty more reasons which draw me back to lovely Krakow. Home is ultimately where the heart is, and thats where the biggest chunk of mine is!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

confession #000023

... or, the motherland temptation

as those of you who follow my Facebook page know, I'm back to the motherland - Malta - for a couple of weeks. I suppose, amid the puerile arguments leading up to the general elections, the fact that I get to spend a little extra time with family, friends and colleagues is a redeeming factor.

Heading back to my Mediterranean roots, I couldn't but build up an appetite for all things which remind me of home. The funny thing is that for some odd reason, my main craving was for a champs / sphinx / maxims pizza. Any fellow malteser out there will immediately know what I'm talking about. The champs / sphinx / maxims pizza is a square of dough which doubles up as a sponge, absorbing all the oil from the tonne of shredded cheese that generally blankets the other toppings. Having had my champs / sphinx / maxims pizza fix I made a unanimous decision to opt for the healthier of local fare ...

So tonight I cooked some aljotta, or fish soup. Usually this would be made with chunks of fish - even heads and tails, as apparently these are most flavoursome - but my version is made with seafood.

It is really quite quick and simple and I believe the calorific intake does not exceed 300kcal per portion ... but I need to check and get back to you on that. anyway, for those of you who are tempted, here's the recipe which yields around 3 portions.


250 gr mixed seafood
50 gr long grain rice
1 medium onion (preferably of the white variety as it's more delicate), chopped
1 medium potato, diced
50 gr peas
1 glass of white wine or a couple of shots vodka
1 tbsp tomato paste (kunserva, to us locals)
seasoning: 1 fish cube; salt, pepper, chilli flakes, oregano and/or mint, to taste

Dry fry the onion until it starts colouring
Add wine / vodka and sautée
Add the potato and peas and stir
Season with selected herbs and spices
Dissolve fish cube in 1 lt water and pour over vegetables
Add tomato paste
Add seafood and rice and simmer for 15 minutes

and there you have it ... a simple, healthy fish soup which takes about 30 minutes maximum to put together (unless, that is, you stop every now and again to instagram the process ...)

Let me know if you give this soup a try! oh, and if you want me to share any other recipes, please leave a message in the comments section below.

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