The Floating Piers – happy memories of an extraordinary experience

I truly hope you all had the chance to come to Northern Italy in June to visit and experience The Floating Piers, the latest incredible art installation by Bulgarian artist Christo, who reimagined Lake Iseo for two weeks from June 18 to July 3.

Visitors had the opportunity to experience the feeling of walking on the lake from the small coastal town of Sulzano to the islands of Montisola and San Paolo on a 3-kilometer long floating walkway covered with a bright yellow fabric that changed its hue with the light.

The small island of San Paolo is private and no one has ever been able to get so close to it before. Christo surrounded it with a circular path so that people could walk around it, or sit by the lake and rest after the long walk, cradled by the light breeze and the rocking waters.

The folds in the yellow fabric played with the lights and the shadows, creating wonderful shades of colour: bright yellow, deep orange, precious gold.

I went there early at dawn, when the summer sun was just starting to break from behind the mountains and to make the air warm. I took an awful lot of photographs, because I just couldn’t get enough of the shades of colours which were never the same: the yellows of the piers, the blues of the sky, the greens of the lake. And I was constantly mesmerised by the beauty of it all.

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If you’re interested in learning more about Christo’s past works you can visit his related page on Artsy.

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Crispy dog treats

DogTreats

Hey friends! Today I want to share a quick idea which is the perfect treat for our furry friends. This recipe is super easy to make with very few ingredients and it’s healthy and tasty too (I personally double-checked! you never know, don’t you?!) You only need a bunch of carrots, a couple of ripe bananas and a handful of things which I’m sure you’ll find in your cupboard… 🙂
Cause if dogs are our BFF, wouldn’t you give them what’s best?! I bet we all would.

Homemade dog treats
300g flour (all purpose or whole wheat) + extra for the workspace
60g corn flour
5-6 carrots
3 bananas
1 egg
70ml vegetable oil
120ml cold water
:: Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a large bowl, mix whole wheat flour and corn flour. Grate or coarsely chop peeled carrots, smash bananas with a fork. Add both carrots and bananas to the flour mix, then incorporate the egg, oil and water and combine until all ingredients are well blended into a workable dough (add some more all purpose flour if needed). Refrigerate for one hour.
Roll out dough on a floured workspace to 1/2cm thickness, then cut cookies to desired shape and size (a dog bone cookie cutter would be nice!). Place cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and put in the oven for 40 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave cookies inside until the oven is cold so that they become very crispy. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool, then transfer to a zipper bag or airtight container. Cookies will last for a couple of weeks (or less!)

My personal assistant for this project was little Ally, a lovely rescued dog who’s always full of energy and very keen on playing/eating/playing/eating and other serious stuff.
She was a very strict judge: she wanted to double-check these treats twice before letting me know she liked them!

What about you? Do you make your own treats for your dog? If you have any special recipe of trick, please let me know in the comments below!
xoxo

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Cumin and cheese pop tarts

Let’s talk about cheese. I simply couldn’t do without, and even if I know it’s not always the healthiest choice, I cannot help it – cheese is the king of all comfort food, it definitely makes things more interesting and yummy (and no fail too). So no wonder I decided to fill these savoury pop tarts with a super tasty cheesy mix: scrumptiously warm and melty, ridiculously easy to make, these tartlets are just the perfect appetizer for a summer party among friends.

Cumin and cheese pop tarts
1 sheet of pizza dough
50g grated parmesan cheese
50g mild cheddar, roughly grated or chopped
50g Emmenthal or similar swiss cheese, roughly grated or chopped
1 tsp ground cumin + 1 pinch
:: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
In a bowl, combine parmesan cheese, cheddar, Emmenthal cheese and ground cumin.
Unroll the pizza dough and, using a cookie cutter or a dumpling mold, cut it into medium-sized discs (about 8-9cm diameter).  Put a spoonful of cheese mix onto each disc, close in half and seal the edges by crimping with a fork.
Place pop tarts onto the lined baking tray, sprinkle with some extra ground cumin and bake per about 15 minutes, until borders are brown and crisp.

Now’s your turn! What is your go-to ingredient? Let me know in the comments! xoxo

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Roasted Tomato Soup

RoastedTomatoSoup

Who knew that May had suddenly become a month in autumn together with October and November?! Weather is far from being nice and warm these days: no light dresses and playful hats, no long walks around town, no ice cream and fruit salad for lunch…nothing of the sort. A nice cup of soup might just be the perfect thing instead.
And because rainy days remind me of long lazy Sunday afternoons spent in a pub some place in the English countryside, all I can think about is tomato soup with a slice of garlic bread. This is a fun variation to the original recipe, tomatoes are roasted so the flavour gets super intense.

RoastedTomatoSoup2

Roasted Tomato Soup
[serves 2-3]
500g ripe tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Thyme
Salt and pepper
Extravergin olive oil
250ml vegetable stock
1 mozzarella cheese
:: Preheat oven to 180°C. Cut tomatoes into chunks and place them skin down on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Skin garlic gloves and mash them over the tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with thyme and olive oil and put the tray in the oven. Roast for about 30 minutes.
Transfer roasted tomatoes and its baking juices into a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, then puree the soup and season with salt and pepper. Serve with a slice of mozzarella cheese in it (melted cheese in a cup of soup is everything!)

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My 10 favourite places to eat + drink in Berlin

Berlin-Food_EN

If you think that German people only eat Currywurst, Sauerkraut and boiled potatoes, you’re just so wrong my dear friends. Not only is Berlin one of most culturally active and fast-forward cities in Europe, but also its culinary scene is super trendy and heterogeneous. Hundreds of bars, cafes, restaurants and other cool places are all over town, and their menus are healthy and delicious. You really wish you could try them all, believe me! I personally did not manage to try them all yet (I promise I’m doing my best though…), but here is anyway a list of my favourite ones so far.

Berlin-Food2

Wonderpots
[Wonderpots – Georgenstraße, S-Bahnbogen 194, Berlin Mitte]
:: Right underneath Friedrichstraße S-Bahn station, this place is all about frozen yogurt – prepare yourself to go crazy about topping up your fro yo with the most delicious things: white chocolate sauce, dry coconut, red berries, nuts, granola, marshmallows…you name it, they have it. And you can mix as many things as you like.

Berlin-Food3

Glücklich am Park
[Glücklich am Park – Kastanienallee 54, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg]
:: Kauf dich glücklich is a small German company with stores in Berlin and other cities. They sell clothes, small furniture and accessories and design items. In their shop at the corner of Kastanienalle and Volkspark am Weinbergsweg you can get all these coll things to buy as well as a quaint little coffee where they make the best waffles ever. That’s only a small room with mismatched old-fashioned furniture, but it’s always jammed with kids with their mummies and other stylish people who come here for a warm waffle and a scoop of homemade ice cream. By the way, glücklich means happy, and you’ll be definitely be happy here.

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Der Imbiss W
[Der Imbiss W – Kastanienallee 49, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg]
:: The “W” in its name is written using the same font as the “M” in McDonald’s, only it’s upside down. You get the hint: fast food is taken to the other side of junk. here everything is freshly made using only top quality ingredients, their menu changes frequently and it’s super healthy (and vegan friendly too).

Berlin-Food5

RisOtto
[RisOtto – Friedrichstraße 115, Berlin Mitte]
:: As plain as this can sound, all they serve in this little restaurant is risotto. But we’re not talking about monotony here, we’re talking about the road to perfection. Fresh seasonal ingredients are combined differently every day and the results are always very interesting and super tasty.

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Markthalle Neun
[Markthalle Neun – Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Berlin Kreuzberg]
:: Every Thursday evening from 6pm to 10pm, this marketplace in Berlin Kreuzberg becomes a street food paradise. Lots of different stands serve the best of international freshly made street food: noodles and dumplings, Spanish tapas, handmade pasta, burgers and meatballs, naan sandwiches, matcha ice cream…You wish you could try them all!

Berlin-Food7

Hummus & Friends
[Hummus & Friends – Oranienburger Straße 27, Berlin Mitte]
:: This is a Jewish restaurant just around the corner from the new synagogue. They specialize in hummus, and man is it good! They make hummus in a variety of mixtures and combinations, and serve it with delicious quinoa salads and grilled veggies. You know what they say: do one thing but do it real good.

Berlin-Food8

Varga Hennecke
[Varga Hennecke – Oderberger Straße 14, Berlin Prenzlauer Berg]
:: If you’re headed to the flea market in Mauer Park on a Sunday afternoon, you’ve definitely got to have your brunch at Varga. It’s a very cool place with good food and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. I recommend seating on one of the stools by the counter so you can have a chat with the waiter and enjoy the view over the rest of the room.

Berlin-Food9

Sucre et Sel
[Sucre et Sel – Torstraße 132, Berlin Mitte]
:: Are you longing for something as tasty and refined as only French food can be? Then you must go to Sucre et Sel, I insist. They serve warm, comforting soups and rich slices of quiche at lunchtime, scrumptious dishes and great wine in the evening. And the waiter speaks German with a strong irresistible French accent and this is what all that matters.

Berlin-Food10

Shiso Burger
[Shiso Burger – Auguststraße 29 c, Berlin Mitte]
:: Imagine a food wedding between burgers and Asiatic food. Sounds interesting, uh?! Well, you’re not imagining it, that’s all real: scampi burger with honey mustard, marinated beef and teriyaki sauce, tofu and grilled eggplant, edamame beans, kimchi, sweet potato fries… and then matcha ice cream, mochi cake and all that jap.

Berlin-Food11

St Oberholz
[St Oberholz – Rosenthaler Straße 72A, Berlin Mitte]
:: St Oberholz started out as a place dedicated to co-working, and then transformed into a super trendy coffee shop: sleek furniture, free wifi, cool music, organic food and a bunch of the most creative people in Berlin working next to one another. That’s by no means my favourite place to spend an afternoon daydreaming of my future Berlin life.

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Now it’s your turn! Have you been to Berlin recently? What are your favourite spots? Please let me know in the comments!

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A weekend in Dresden

a weekend in Dresden - Germany

I’ve recently spent a few weeks in Berlin, taking part of a language project in order to improve my German skills (it’s such a shame, you know – I used to know it very very well, then I started to work in the UK and my German had to make room for many other things, so “bye bye Deutsch!”). Having lived in Berlin for 3 months as a university student, I know the city pretty well, and so I decided to take advantage of my time off during these weeks to go and explore the surroundings.
And that’s how my weekend in Dresden started in the first place.

weekend in Dresden 2

weekend in Dresden 3

Dresden was almost completely destroyed by a series of devastating bombings in 1945. Hundreds and hundreds of people died and most of the historic buildings were razed to the ground. But Germans are stubborn and tenacious, and Dresden was rebuilt to rise from its ashes again.
I think there are few cities silhouettes in Europe more striking than Dresden’s. When you cross the Elbe on the Augustusbrücke, you get one of the most stunning views of the Altstadt (the Old Town). This side of town is so elegant and decadent, and everything is meticulously neat and tidy. You get a sense of peaceful tranquility that flows together with the river.

weekend in Dresden 4

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The atmosphere changes completely once you cross the river and enter the Neustadt, which despite its name has medieval origins. Here streets are narrow and buildings are packed one next to the other, and some colorful street art decorates their walls. It’s just nice to walk around and get lost, and discover some super quirky hidden gems.

weekend in Dresden 6

One of my favourite spots was the Kunsthofpassage, a strange building with extravagant courtyards – walls are decorated with golden plates that move with the wind, or giant pipes that play music when it rains. This place is magic.

weekend in Dresden 7

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Useful tips (where to stay, places to eat, lots of amenities)

Before you go – To get ready for my trip to Dresden, I downloaded a city guide to help me get everything organised. Lonely Planet has some very detailed eBooks that are very cheap (each chapter costs around 3 euros, or you can get the whole book for 10 euros if you’re planning to visit more places) and super handy (no bulky heavy books stuffed in my tote, hurray!).
There are 2 more apps that you definitely need to download: a map of the city that can be used offline (I used Ulmon’s City Maps To Go: they have a cool design and they let you save itineraries and lists of places) and an interactive map of Dresden public transport (I downloaded the VVO Navigator).

Where to stayHostel Mondpalast [Louisenstraße 77] – this hostel at the heart of the Neustadt is super cool and eclectic: it has weird astronomic decorations in the common areas and each room is dedicated to a sign of the zodiac or some other spacey theme. Staff is very kind and friendly, and there even a very stylish bar underneath the hostel (no need to go out in the evening to enjoy some nightlife!).

where to stay in Dresden - Hostel Mondpalast

Where to eat – 
Curry & co. [Louisenstraße 62] – this place has literally elevated the classic German currywurst to an art form: good ol’ ketchup has been replaced with super tasty interesting sauces (try the honey mustard or the peanut butter sauce), french fries are homemade and spiced up by colorful veggie variations, and vegans will not be disappointed by no-meat options. All of this surrounded by a bold and edgy design, and – hey – this place is opposite the Hostel Mondpalast (which is very convenient in case of late night cravings).

where to eat in Dresden -

– Kochbox [Görlitzer Straße 4] – This little joint serves delicious burgers that are 100% homemade. The place is very modern, but some details are quirky and definitely out of place, such as the mismatches plates with floral decorations, or some colorful tulips bringing joy to the little tables.

where to eat in Dresden - Kochbox

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I liked Dresden very much. That’s a nice place, super creative and modern. OK, maybe people here speak German with a odd incomprehensible accent, but their friendliness and kindness make up for any linguistic difficulty.

a weekend in Dresden

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Walnut and Marmalade Cake

Walnut Marmalade Cake

Ah, I love breakfast! It’s my favorite meal ever, and I could never ever start a day without it (don’t try me, it could lead to disaster). And I really like the smell the fills the house when you prepare it in the morning, be it a simple toast slightly burned around the crust, a pile of warm pancakes, a cup of strong Italian coffee prepared with an old moka, a cake resting on the counter from the night before.

Walnut and Marmalade Cake - recipe

Walnut and Marmalade Cake
180g flour (I used a mix of white and wholewheat)
3 eggs
100g brown sugar
150g butter, at room temperature (must be very soft)
4-5 tbsp marmalade
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
:: Preheat the oven to 180°C. Beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl until they’re soft and well combined. Add the butter, a pinch of salt and the chopped walnuts. Add the baking powder to the flour mix, then mix it together with the rest of the ingredients. When the mixture is ready, add the marmalade and beat slightly – you don’t want it to mix in completely. Grease a cake mold with butter and flour and pour in the batter (you can use smaller mold if you like, or even a muffin tin). Bake for 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and firm (try to put a toothpick in it – it has to come out dry), then let dry completely.

Walnut and Marmalade Cake

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