Friday, August 8, 2014

The bedroom makeover

Almost three years ago we moved into our first flat together. The room that evolved the most was our bedroom. A couple of days after we did some painting, installed the light fixture and assembled IKEA bed and closet, I snapped some pictures for our friends and family.

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Oh, the joys of our first days of living together. Even our sheets were mismatched, the laminated floor and the restaurant air conditioning on the flat roof of our building.

387790_10150413345074668_1503760944_n I remember being so proud that we have brand new sliding door closet. We even had the shoe between the door and the closet because we were afraid that the door will break it. We have moved most of our properties in these suitcases on the left and we did it by train. The green carpet was actually my biggest property after selling my single life furniture.

Nowdays, this same room actually looks way more wild and “storagey”.

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The biggest change that happened in this room is that we did laminate flooring last year. We have picked cheap IKEA laminate, borrowed some tools from our friends and spent a weekend cutting and assembling everything. Our grand total was about 100 euros with blue knees and back pain included.

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Another recent addition, which actually brought a lot of change in this room are the curtains. They are very light and airy and have this unusual country print all over, but somehow they make really nice separation between our room and the roof and I finally do not feel as if I am sleeping next to a restaurant chimney. The best thing: it took only 2 packs of 7 euro Tchibo panels. Sweet 14 euro grand total.

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Then we also got some more furniture. Here is my beloved Expedit cube. I would like to get one more, but I’ve heard that IKEA is not selling them any more. Whyyy?

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And then, this is my home office workspace. Honestly, even though it looks pretty, the desk is too small for my needs and the chair has to long seating surface for 164 cm tall girl, which results in my legs being straight instead of bent, which results in the knee problems… Anyway, short people will get it, major changes are planned for this corner.

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And then, the details: Grandma’s frame from Grandma’s frame remake post.

Pic 3 ..And little decoupage jewelry station that I got from my mom.

Pic 4 Bag hook to avoid having them everywhere on the floor.

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And an electric cord basket which indeed is a mess, but at least all the chargers stay there when not used.

So, this is how our bed room looks like in the moment We are hoping to stay in this flat at least until the end of the year and enjoy the beauty of it.

I did not post a lot of details on the products (not sure if a lot of people are interested in it), but everything in the room, except for bed and closet is rather inexpensive and comes from Ikea (sometimes I joke that we live in the Ikea showhouse), Tchibo, Strauss, TkMaxx and Depot.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

How to spend 4 days in Barcelona

This year, 1st of May was Thursday, making it very easy to make mini-vacation with very few days off. My boyfriend’s mom was visiting and we wanted to do something nice with her. Since Ryanair had introduced flights from Cologne/Bonn to Barcelona last year, this trip was on our bucket list.
Flight:
We paid 130 Euros round trip per person for Ryanair flight to Girona (Barcelona’s secondary airport). This could be cheaper if we did not pick long holiday weekend to save some days off, but we wanted to save some vacation days for summer and spent some extra money for the ticket. Ryanair is..well Ryanair.. I personally do not mind low cost companies: we pack light, bring our own food, buy overpriced coffee in the plane and my boyfriend has to squeeze his legs a bit. Girona airport is not so close to Barcelona, but it is nice, clean and has subway, McDonald’s and free WiFi. There are shuttle busses with departure times coordinated with the flight times. Round trip ticket costs 25 Euros and it takes about 75 minutes to be in the city, precisely at the North Bus Station. The only annoying part was that our flight back home was very early, so we had to catch 3:45 AM bus. Cruel!
Hotel:
We have stayed at Residencia Onix and loved it there. It is a kind of a hotel/student residence mix place. It has 24 hour reception, it is clean, has free internet (combination of WiFi and “cord”) and a lot of facilities (a small rooftop pool, gym, TV room etc). We’ve booked 2 rooms (one for BF and me and another for my mother in law) which were connected through a kitchen. This was perfect, because we could have our own privacy, but still be together and enjoy some family time. The kitchen was fully equipped, so we did smaller food preps, but basically one could do all of the meals there (there is also big supermarket in the building behind hotel).
Food:
The reason why we did not cook a lot was that the neighborhood is full of cheap little restaurants, pubs and tapas bars. I kept eating paellas all the time and together with a drink, they came to around 10-12 Euros (way cheaper than in the city center). I have also tested a lot of seafood tapas at small suspiciously looking bars and survived it fine. My mother in law and I also had nice 2 Euro breakfasts at a Chinese-run place right next to the Arc de Triomf.
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The “fancy” outstanding meal that we all really enjoyed was at Placa Reial at Restaurant called Ambos Mundos. We had some mellon/ham tappas and really creamy soft seafood paella. The square itself is really pretty, the food and sangria amazing, but affordable (about 20 Euro/person).
Our second “fancy” meal was honestly really disappointing experience. Nenad and I went for a date at Mont Juic (really nice and romantic area) and wanted go get late night tapas dinner at La Rambla. Of course, the area is very visited and most of the restaurants are really tourist traps. Nicely arranged, bad quality extremely overpriced tapas, big water diluted sugary, booze enhanced sangria… just skip it!
4 days in Barcelona:
Day 1:
We were checked in and ready around 6 pm, so we took a walk through the neighborhood, all the way to Placa Catalunya. I really liked the square and the fountains: open, elegant, but not too crowded.
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We continued through La Rambla, which, as said before was not my cup of tea. Too touristic, crowded, with cheap arts and above mentioned restaurants. I understand that La Rambla is unavoidable destination for Barcelona tourists, but do not have big expectations for it.
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After taking a few shots with Colombo monument, we have continued our stroll through Barri Gottic. The area was really nice, with small narrow streets, two millions shops and those French balconies on almost every building. I really suck for those romantic views.
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We ended our stroll with late night chit-chat at the Arc de Triomf, which is even more romantic at night.
Day 2:
I woke up unusually early for a vacation day (it probably had to do with busy traffic below our window), headed for 8 am walk around the neighborhood and fished with a coffee and croissant next to Arc de Triomf.
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Since my mother in law was traveling with us and cannot keep up with 10 hour walking tours, and since I have a hip injury (stubborn runner), we have mostly split our days in two parts, with afternoon relaxing in the hotel.
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I picked up my boyfriend and his mom and we did one more walk through Cuitadella park, the Gotic Quarter and had an amazing lunch at Placa Reial. I loved this big, but a bit hidden square. Surrounded by restaurants and palm trees, it is somehow giving the classy impression.
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After our relaxing hours by the hotel pool, we were ready to head to the beach, Barcelonetta. We were lucky enough with the weather and we walked all the way from Mol de Mestral to Hotel W, and back through Barcellonetta neighborhood to the subway station.
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Here I would like to give a shout to incredibly cheap and frequent subway in Barcelona. We got a 10 ride ticket (can be used by different people)for 10 Euros (what a surprise after 2,6 Euro/ride in Germany). The trains were on time and not too crowded.  Keep in mind that to  enter the platform or change the lines, it takes at least 5 minutes of walking, so it does not make sense to take it for one stop.
Day 3:
After one more coffee breakfast at Arc de Triomf, we have walked to Sagrada Familia church, the one peaking from every post card of Barcelona. The church is pretty as seen at the post card, but honestly, the crowd around the church equals to the one at Eiffel Tower or at Times Square. You know, energy sucking, to crowded to enjoy, watch your bag kind of crowd. Once again, I know that this is also Barcelona must see destination in every travel guide, so go ahead and see it, but arm yourself with patience.
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From there on, we took a subway close to Park G├╝ell. Please not that the access to the Park is very steep and try not to drag your mother in law there by the heat!I wish I could tell more about the park, but due to above mentioned reason, we could not really explore it in detail. It looks like a pretty, but again overcrowded place, but with a great view to Barcelona. Here it is probably worth of mentioning that it is not the end of the world if you have to take a taxi back to hotel. Our ride went through the whole city and it was about 8 Euros.
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The evening of this day was probably the nicest one of our stay. Nenad and I went to a Mont Juic date. I know that the colorful dancing fountain is appearing a bit kitchy, but the whole area, with the Castle on the top of the hill, pretty steps and fountain waterfall following the steps is really pretty.
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We came there around 8 pm and climbed along the stairs to the top of the castle. There was a guy playing guitar on the top and not so many tourists as downstairs. We go a a cheap beer from on of the guys selling it everywhere and enjoyed the sunset. A lot of families brought their own cheese, ham and wine and I would probably do the same next time.
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At 9 o clock sharp, the fountain show with music and lights have started. Even though I find it nice, it can not be compared to Bellagio’s show in Vegas. We watched the show for about an hour and proceeded to our not-so-great-dinner at La Rambla.
Day 4:
I have a good friend in Bonn who is coming from Barcelona. It happened that she was visiting her parents for the weekend and had a lot of errands to run too. We met each other for a nice breakfast at Exiample and I had very sweet chocolate doughnut.
Before we left for Barcelona, the  weather forecast was not so optimistic (17C degrees and rain), but the things have brightened up. Suddenly, it was 27 and supper sunny. So I ended up going to Primark (super cheap cheaper than HandM shop and bought some shorts for Nenad and me. I picked up Nenad and his mom (and hotel towels and 1 Euro sunscreen) and we went to the beach!
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Barcellonetta is really pretty! Even though it is so close to the city center and the port is just nearby, water is still pretty clean, the sand is really nice and it is huge. We spent an afternoon at the beach, Nenad was happy to swim and I was properly dipping my legs and enjoyed the views.
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After beach, I got us some jamon, goat cheese and various spreads that we polished of at home (and saved some for the next day sandwiches) and then visited Mont Juic with MIL once again!
Going back:
As I said before, we had 7 AM flight from Girona and I was never happier that our hotel was just next to the Bus station (I even forgot all those noisy busses running below our window all night). We woke up at 3 AM (ouch), took a 3:45 bus to Girona airport and had plenty of time for jamon/goat cheese breakfast there.
Money:
As always, I would like to talk about money aspects of this trip.This travel was definitely not “on a budget” travel for us, but we still did decent job . We had Nenad’s mom with us and did not want to take her to hostels and make her eat sandwiches 5 days. We also had really stressful period with my PhD and Nenad’s new job and wanted to spoil ourselves a little bit. So here is the breakdown of the costs:
Flight: 130 Euros (Ryanair, no luggage)
Hotel: 110 Euro each (330 for 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen and two bathrooms)
Pocket money: 160 Euros for me (This includes all the food, bus transfer and a pair of shorts)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

How to blossom your balcony

Hello there, this is the first post of How to… series.
Before I start, I would like to say that up to last summer, I did not have not even a single plant surviving more than 2 months in our household, so if I can make this project work, you can do it for sure..
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This will be our 3rd summer in our little flat. The first one was pretty hectic and broke after getting all the furniture, so our balcony was more of a storage area. Last summer we got this balcony set (it was 100 Euro at Amazon) and two 1 Euro Dracaena (like this but smaller) plants from IKEA. We also got two random plants as a gift from our friends. As I already explained, I have killed many plants in my 5 years of independent life, so when these survived a year, I was thrilled and have decided to expand the collection.
So what is the trick? How can a 50 hour a week working always traveling PhD student grow a plant? Well, you have to take very resistant ones! If you learn to drive a car, will you start with a giant truck or with a tiny ones? So I have killed a lot of orchids before realizing it. And then I found those Dracaenas that gave me hope. So yesterday I went to OBI and got my basic supplies for about 15 Euros. I have purchased two bags of dirt (less than 2 Euro/bag) in REWE a week before, simply because it is closer to carry from.
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The whole planting work was done in our living room, since there was no sufficient light at the balcony. So the first goal was to provide bigger pots for Dracaenas. The bigger one in the new one:
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The decorative pot of the smaller one now serves as a main one (it has a hole), and the decorative pot of the big one is now the decorative pot for the small one:
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Lavender story is a bit different. I have talked to a guy who does not really do flowers, but his flat mate moved out and left him a lavender plant. He is not really taking care of it, but it keeps growing on their balcony and looks pretty. So lavender was my biggest investment yesterday at OBI (about 5 Euros):
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Then there are some violets. This is very German thing and you can get them in these big packs in every supermarket.
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I am not sure how easy they are to grow, but it is a cheap thing (about 2 euros for this 10 pack), and I can keep these nice pots for something else if it does not work anyway:
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Sunflower seeds are very questionable. My mom warned me that growing the plant from the seed is like that truck driving. I go these seeds during Karneval from some random people at the parade and had some basic pots left from Dracaena’s. So I gave it a try. I will update you about the progress.
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Whew, so this is the grand total. I took all these to the balcony and watered them very well. I was impressed that the living room laminate floor was very easy to clean.
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So this is the next morning at the balcony:
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Dracaena, violets and lavender
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b Dracaena, random plant that was a gift (still alive but did not need additional treatment), sunflower seed, some old candles and the ugly ash tray (I had some guests at my parents place using flower pots in the lack on one, so I learned my lesson).
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c Violets and random plant number 2. This plant was in very bad condition, so I trimmed the bad brunches and left it like this. Last year it blossomed beautifully, so I hope it survives this too.
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Whew,that is it! I hope that it all survives, but I will let you know about it in a couple of months.
Money: 15 Euros
Time: 1 Hour

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bacon wrapped Brussel sprouts

This is one more fancy looking easy to make dish that I did a couple of evenings ago. It is actually very straight forward to make. You should preheat your oven at 200 Celsius and clean your Brussel spouts like this:20140223_193702 Use regular breakfast bacon and wrap it around “sprout”. There is no need for any additional fixing.I also did not use salt or any spice, since bacon already has very strong aroma.

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I was using IKEA glass tray for baking it, but I guess you can use any kind of dish. Bake it for 20 minutes and enjoy it immediately (or reheat it and feed your coworkers :)).

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Packing list

Since a gym bag list was greatly loved and shared, I thought I should share a pretty version of a list that I use more than any other. My life situation is that way that I travel a lot: I am a scientist and I go to different conferences and meetings quite a lot, my family and friends live in Serbia, my brother in Munich, I studied in Belgium and visit friends there, and I love road trips and multi-city trip vacations (more on that will be coming).
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All together, you can imagine that I do big packing trip like the one above at least once a month. One night trips are done even more common, but these are pretty simple.
So here is the list that I am sticking to every time I travel. Obviously, I do not bring everything form that list, I highlight the things I want before the packing and check them once they are on this bed. Enjoy, I hope you find it useful.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gym bag checklist

Even though my blog is not a healthy living blog (there are plenty of good ones and world does not need one more), I can not skip important fact about me: I am very passionate runner and and at the moment I am preparing for my first half marathon. Since it is pretty cold outside, I use treadmill at the university gym a lot.
After forgetting necessities to often, I recently made a small checklist with the things I need to pack in my gym bag not to end up drying with the paper towels. Enjoy!
Gym checklist

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Corridor smile set

Hello hello! This is the small project I did before we have decided to move. I still like how it looks and I hope it will nicely fit to our new place.
I had a couple of pieces around the house that I thought might go together by a size and longish shape, but their style was totally different.
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Piece 1 (top) is decoupage board leftover from my dad’s workshop. I liked the wine pattern and old fashioned style.
Piece 2 is an old painting of mine. It is a real masterpiece of bathroom art and it was hanging well hidden. Honestly, I hate it, but the shape was good to fit between 1 and 3. I had to find a proper color that would match with the rest of the pieces and brighten it up.The smile note came very spontaneously and I like that it is the first message I see when I enter our home. Anyway, it took 3 layers of blue acrylic paint, waiting a couple of hours to dry, using pencil as a reference and writing Smile with 2 layers of white.
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Piece 3 is 2 Euro hanger from Strauss. The quality was corresponding the price, so all of the hooks were gone in first two weeks. I have repasted the hooks with laminate glue (that is the strongest one that we have in the house). This piece fits great by the size and shape and it was originally hanging on this wall alone.
So here is how it looks all together (my apologies for the quality of the picture, lightning in our corridor is tricky) :
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I hope we will find equally nice place for this pretty set in our new flat.