Sunday, 9 November 2014

Places to find your expat food in Vienna

I saw an article on The Local last week about the price of expat (predominantly Anglophone country expat) food, compared across the key cities where the website operates. Vienna ranked somewhat high on the cost of buying your favourite expat foods, which is no surprise considering that their research was apparently a trip to Bobby's (which I keep trying to type as Boobz's for some reason). I have nothing against Bobby's - I've walked past it a few times but never actually been in - but it isn't the only place to buy your expat fare in the city.

As time has gone on, I find myself relying less on imports from the UK; in part because I am getting used to not having things, and also because I'm finding it easier to get things without having to make special trips. For everything else, there is Amazon.

So, without further ado, here is a list of the expat foods, and where I like to buy them.

 1. Heinz Baked Beans

I've never been that fussed about my brand of beans, as long as it was something above the level of Tesco Value. But not all beans are born equal, and Heinz rates highly amongst the many different brands (although back home my favourites were Waitrose Essential), and are certainly the only beans worth buying out here.
The Local's article had them pegged at €2.49 a tin, but Merkur and Spar sell them for around €1.49 a tin. Look for them in the tinned bean section.

2. PG Tips

Another item that The Local lists as a pricey consumerable, at €3.99 for 40 bags, which is a bit bloody steep. Luckily PG Tips is available at pretty much every Indian/Asian supermarket in the city, at the much more reasonable €7.99 for about 300 teabags.

3. Bird's Custard Powder

Bird's Custard Powder is the stuff of legends. A combination of sugar, cornstarch and dried egg, this makes every dessert awesome. Thankfully due to its milk free ingredients, I can still eat it. I brought a tin out with me, thinking that I would have to ration it until I could get home to get more, but lo and behold, we found it in Nakwon, our local Korean supermarket (Rotensterngasse, 2nd district, there is also a branch in the 7th), and I believe you can buy it in Prosi (also in the 7th, on the Gurtel at the back of Burggasse Stadthalle U Bahn Station).

4. HP Brown Sauce

This has remained an elusive product. You can buy it in Bobby's, but everything there comes with a premium price. If you happen to be in Bratislava, the Tesco there sells it.

5. Cheddar Cheese

Ah the last bastion of Englishness. When we moved here in 2012, the only cheddar you could buy was Irish cheddar, which is a disgusting orange colour and by all accounts is pretty disgusting to taste. We kept importing cheese from the UK, apart from the odd time that Spar Gourmet had some proper stuff on the cheese counter, but Merkur now sell Cathedral City, which is a good standard of cheese.

6. Branston Pickle
Another item available from Prosi, and some other Asian supermarkets. This stuff is a sandwich staple - you can of course make your own, but why bother?

7. Colman's Mustard 
This sharp yellow mustard is sold pre made, or as a powder. I've only seen it in Merkur Hohe Markt, which is a treasure trove of goodies from all over the place. This stuff is a common accompaniment to roast beef, or mixed with honey as a marinade for pork. That and all the other uses!

These are probably the top foodstuffs I can find in Vienna - everything else I just go to Amazon (things like Golden Syrup, treacle, muscovado sugar etc), or we stock up when we're back in the UK.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Twenty-four photos in twelve hours?

At the end of September, on the spur of the moment, The Beard and I decided to join the Vienna Photo Marathon. The idea is that you have 24 themes, and you have to take a photo for each theme, in order. And you have 12 hours to do it in. 

There is no editing, no post processing, and everything has to be shot in JPG. The only things you are allowed to do to your photos are the things that your camera will do before you take the picture, like change the colour settings to shoot in monochrome or other fancy setting. Oh, and you can rotate them (my camera is set to auto rotate but I have no idea whether it actually works or not!). 

The Sunday dawned somewhat foggy, but by 9am when we went to pick up our memory card and the themes, the mist was clearing. The day turned out to be the best weather possible for photography, with beautiful clear skies and air. It was a LONG day - we were on our feet for nearly the whole 12 hours. With hindsight we could have done with sitting down a little at the beginning and planning something more structured, but oh well, you live and learn!

We will definitely take part again next year, as we had a lot of fun. A lot of people were bringing all kinds of costumes and actors etc to the event, photographing them in all different scenarios, but we both took the approach of a giant photographic scavenger hunt. We also kept our kit to a minimum, as it was hard work carrying a load of stuff around all the time!

I was quite pleased with the results! Taking part has really encouraged me to get out with the camera and photograph more, because there are so many cool things to look at here! 

morgens in Wien / mornings in Vienna

nachdenklich / contemplative

am Spielplatz / at the playground

es wird gebaut / under construction

Fotografie ist Abenteur / Photography is an adventure

im Burggarten / in Burggarten

Der Golf. Das Auto. / The Golf. The Car.

herbstliches Wien / autumnal Vienna

in der Mitte / in the middle

mehr Menschlichkeit für Tiere / more humanity for animals

zusammen / together

ICH BIN das ultimative Selfie / I AM the ultimate selfie

eingezäunt / enclosed

gelb / yellow

Kunst / Art

Wunder der Technik / wonder of technology

Wenn ich könnte, wie ich wollte... / if I could, I would...

Abdruck / cast

Kontakt / contact

Stein/steinig / Stone/stony

oben/unten / over/under

so geht's auch / that also works

vergessen / forgotten

fertig / finished

Friday, 3 October 2014

Project 333

I was going to try Project 333 for the next three months. The idea is that you pick 33 items to wear for 3 months, no more, no less. That has to include jewellery, outerwear and shoes, but doesn't include underwear, work out wear or sentimental jewellery that you never take off (like a wedding ring, or in my case 2 treasured rings and a bracelet plus all the studs in my multiple piercings).

I dutifully wrote a list of everything in my wardrobe that I still wear regularly (making a note to remove the items not on the list), then tried to whittle it down. My original list came to 41 different pieces (I didn't count duplicates of the same colour). Should be simple right?

I was reminded pretty quickly that it is not in my nature to be that minimal. Sure, I don't like too much clutter (who knew that this day would come?) and my colour palette ranges from black to white with a hint of grey in the middle, but try and get me to not wear more than 33 items for 3 months? Sorry, no can do.

An online conversation I have been reading raised a valid point today - why is the conversation about clothing amounts so polarised? Why do we only really see the extremes - the women with huge wardrobes with a vast array of garments, or the women with the tiniest ones, with enough clothes to last them a mere 5 days without having to do some laundry?

My suspicion is that anything in the middle is just too boring. It is average. Most women aren't at either extreme, we all fall somewhere in between. Like some women have huge shoe collections, where others (like me) have tiny ones. I've got quite a lot of jewellery (even if I don't wear it that much these days) because jewellery doesn't rely on bits of me meeting some arbitrary average that a designer has picked - pierced ears are pretty much pierced ears. Other women will baulk at any jewellery that is more than a simple pair of studs, a wedding ring and maybe a slender necklace.

But average is boring so we worship the extreme. We envy the minimal bloggers because their wardrobes make their lives look so easy. I'm not sure how easy it is to only have 33 items to choose from - I'd be in a flap over the amount of laundry required just to keep it all looking and smelling fresh - but judging by the amount of blogs about minimalism there are obviously women who lap up this stuff. I wonder if they are actually read by women who have endless amounts of clothes, in a bid to figure out how to organise themselves and their wardrobes.

My brief experience in trying to do the 33 for 3 thing has shown me that I simply have no need for that kind of stress in my life, and I'm perfectly happy the way I am.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Body Acceptance

This has been a post that I have part-written, deleted, rinse and repeat, many times. I sort of know what I want to say, but somehow I can't make the words sit together nicely.

Three years ago this week I decided to join Slimming World. I had reached nigh on 15 stone in weight, and felt I needed to do something about it. I lost 2 stone in 3 months. And I kept it off mostly, a few fluctuations up and down, but until last Christmas I managed to maintain at a weight I felt comfortable at (around 13st 3lbs). During the course of this year my weight has increased slightly, and now I am close to 13st 10lbs. I am still fluctuating up and down. Thing is, I eat healthily. I try to exercise as much as I can (I've jumped back on the swimming train, and am loving it). Most importantly of all, I am pretty happy with my life. The thought of having to go back to religiously following the Slimming World plan brings me out in cold sweats.

The thing is, there is nothing wrong with me. I have been focusing on the numbers on the scale, and not how I feel. I feel fucking fantastic, even more so since I gave up dairy products (I never thought I'd utter those words, but well, there you go. I don't even miss cheese). And all this time I've been trashing my body in my head, it is because I don't fit into the narrow mould dictated to me by society, magazines and the fashion industry. I stand next to some of my friends (many of whom are tiny) and feel like a giant, but so what? I'm just a bigger person, there isn't much I can do about that!

This gem of acceptance of who I am started during my trip home to the UK. My mum treated me to some shopping, and I ended up with a new bikini. Its a bit 50s style halterneck fabulous stripey thing (black with bright stripes, not a usual me thing!) and by buying the correct size I felt amazing in it. Like some goddess from the pin up postcards you see in vintagey shops.

Since then I've been slowly purging my wardrobe of the things that don't really fit me any more that I'd been holding onto in the hope I'd lose some weight, and filling it back up with new things that do fit. I wore a dress the other day that was quite fitted and I realised just how hourglassy my figure has become. I kinda like it, given that most of my life I've been a straight up and down athletic figure 'type'.

Maybe this acceptance of how I look comes from the knowledge that actually it hasn't been so much to do with my lifestyle as my age - I'm in some kind of late prime baby rearing age and I think my hormones are reacting that way. If I was trying to get pregnant I'd probably manage it in the blink of an eye - I'm almost at the same age my mum was when she fell pregnant with me, so I guess genetics are a factor - my body is prepped and primed.

I plan to continue to ensure that my diet is as healthy as possible - tons of vegetables, lean meats, but I'm not going to give up the wine that I love, or the odd snack. The pasties we had for dinner last night were most excellent, as were the scones I made for dessert (tofu clotted cream for the win!).

I'm just going to continue to love me for who I am, and that means nourishing my mind as well as my body. That seems to be the best way to be healthy, to hell with what anyone else says.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Trip to the UK - Cornwall Part 4

After my couple of days in London and Cardiff, I headed to Cornwall with my dad. I hadn't been home since just before we left the UK, so it was really nice to spend a whole week in Cornwall. Luckily the weather was excellent and I spent most of the time on the beach with my mum.


Another gloomy day, and this time it was gloomy over the north coast as well. After a trip into town to pick up a couple of things, we headed over to Gwithian to walk along the beach.

Gwithian is another one of our favourite beaches, as the bay is long and wide. There are often seals around the headland as well. The storm damage was evident when we tried to get down onto the beach - not an easy task! On the beach it was easy to see where the cliffs had collapsed in places, with the sediment still evident on the sand.

I took my parents for dinner on Friday night to a restaurant we'd passed in Truro, called Hooked. It is a fish and seafood bar, that also has tapas. Dad was driving (despite me suggesting that we get a taxi) but Mum and I enjoyed a lovely bottle of Cornish wine, grown and produced on the south coast, near Gorran Haven.

We ate so much food - I had a seafood platter which had mussels, cockles, prawns, scallops and fish, in a spicy ginger and lemongrass broth. With chips. At last, moules et frites! We started with some tapas, and finished with dessert. There was nothing on the dessert menu I could eat, so I had an espresso and an Amaretto instead.

Everything about the meal was fantastic, and I would definitely recommend it if you find yourself in Truro!


On Saturday I left the motherland to go back to London for my flight to Vienna. I had opted to take the train, as it is a rather scenic ride when you get to Dawlish in Devon, and I wanted to catch a glimpse of Exeter as well.

As ever it was hard to say goodbye, both to my parents and Cornwall. But as lovely and amazing as Cornwall is, it just isn't somewhere I can live at the moment. I will just have to keep it in my heart and try and visit as often as I can. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Trip to the UK - Cornwall Part 3

After my couple of days in London and Cardiff, I headed to Cornwall with my dad. I hadn't been home since just before we left the UK, so it was really nice to spend a whole week in Cornwall. Luckily the weather was excellent and I spent most of the time on the beach with my mum.


On Wednesday I met up with an old school friend who I hadn't seen for over a decade - we sat and caught up over coffee for a couple of hours, which was really nice.

After lunch with back at home, Mum and I decided to go to the Lizard, the most southerly point of mainland Britain. The weather was warm but overcast, leading to a bit of humidity, but we were undeterred, and went for a stiff walk along the cliffs, stopping at the point for a drink at the cafe.

Despite the gloomy weather, the sea was still a wonderful colour, and the sun did come out a little bit later on.

Sometimes I think that the gloom makes for more interesting sights. Looking back at those photos just proves to me how Cornwall can be beautiful no matter what the weather.


On Thursday we headed over to Padstow and Rock, as there was a golf competition on at St Enodoc Golf Course that Mum wanted to watch a little bit of. The weather in Truro was again a little gloomy and overcast, leading me to leave my swimming costume at home rather than take it, a decision I came to regret once we got there!

Before we caught the ferry back to Padstow we stopped at a cafe in Rock for a drink, and had wonderful green lemonade, which was homemade lemonade flavoured with lemongrass, mint, basil and something else I've forgotten. I chose it because the menu said it was inspired by the cafes along the Danube in Bratislava!

Watch out tomorrow for the final part of my trip home!


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