Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December chic list

Images: Eggnog // Song // Macarons
This December went by in a kind of blur. We were busy wrapping up all the 2015 projects at work, while simultaneously preparing for the 2016 ones. In the middle of it all, I also had my living room furniture and pantry installed, I trimmed my first Christmas tree, cleaned the apartment, bought some last minute Christmas gifts, and then practically collapsed from exhaustion on December 24. And ever since, I've only been lounging on our couch, stuffing my face with mom's delicious food, reading books and magazines, and watching some stupid TV (which I almost never do, and now I remember why - I practically felt my brain cells dying :) And I'm planning to take a full advantage of the fact that I'm not resuming work until January 11 - now that's what I call a vacation!
Lucky thing I have my logbook to remind me of all that went down in December. Here goes the recap of what I was...

Loving: all my new planners. It seems that one of my biggest goals for 2016 is to become a whiz at organizing. I have one planner for healthy living, one for my blog's editorial calendar, and a last one for absolutely everything - work, personal, goals and blogging. I'm not entirely sure how it's all going to work out, or if I'll even be able to keep up with it all, all the time. But at least, my to do list won't resemble a giant mess of random scraps of paper and post its anymore. Fingers crossed.

Reading: My December reading list was one of the best so far: I've powered through those books with the speed of sound. Along the infinite sea was a favorite, not least because I simply adore every single book that Beatriz Williams publishes. I am pilgrim came close second - it was just the perfect, fast-paced, nail-biting. chills-inducing thriller I was hoping for. I also reread the Millenium trilogy before diving straight into The girl in the spider's web, and although the latter was pretty good, I think it's lacking that something special that only Stieg Larsson possessed. But it was still a great read, confirmed by the fact that my dad practically inhaled all the four books over Christmas - he only interrupted reading at meal time! I'm currently halfway through Paper towns, and I love it so far - it comes as no surprise, since I'm such a big fan of John Green. I'm already putting together my January list, and per usual, I have some amazing reads lined up. Stay tuned!

Listening to: Come wake me up by Rascall Flatts & Jill Johnson I don't know why, but this song really struck a chord (pun intended) with me. I've had it on repeat over and over, and I'm still obsessed.

Decorating: two Christmas trees. I was really spoiled this year: not only was I in charge of our family tree, I also got to trim my very first Christmas tree in my new home. It was such a special and lovely moment to me, and I really enjoyed my evenings, sitting by the tree with a glass of eggnog and a good book in hands. Pure happiness.

Drinking: eggnog, of course, but also some great red and white wines. Just before Christmas I practically raided my favorite wine shop, and left with the armful of great bottles to share with my family. And I have made a promise to myself: next year, I want to drink less wine, but only the really good one. Not necessarily more expensive - I'm not that extravagant. Rather, I'd like to skip the supermarket offerings, and choose small, local wineries instead. There are so many great wine producers here in Slovakia, and it would be such a shame not to give them a chance! I'm already looking forward to some great discoveries!

Being spoiled with Christmas presents. When I first moved into my apartment, I didn't own a single casserole - I had to borrow a few from my mom. I opted for an induction stove in my kitchen, and instead of buying any cheap cookware, I wanted to save up my pennies for a really good set that would last me a lifetime (or, at least I hope so :)) I finally found the perfect one last month in Munich, and when my parents offered to buy it for me for Christmas, I was practically jumping for joy. I could hardly hope for a better present - it is one of those gifts that will keep on giving, and can't wait to invite my parents over and cook them a proper lunch, or dinner.

Eating: my mom's macarons (among other delectable things she made for the holidays). Confession time: I have been put to shame by my own mother. After a few failed attempts, I practically interrupted my quest for a perfect homemade macaron (it's precisely one of those things I keep saying I'd want to do more of, but never quite seem to find the perfect occasion). You can only imagine my surprise when I was welcomed in my parents' house last week with a plate of perfectly gorgeous and delicious macarons made by my mom. I may or may not have been a tiny bit jealous, but I immediately proceeded to stuffing my face with them, and quite unceremoniously, to be honest. Definitely a jolt of motivation, if there ever was one. Time to pull out my egg whites and baking sheets again!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My favorite posts of 2015


I may or may not have a mild case of nostalgia this time of year - who doesn't, really? But it's the good kind. The one that made me go through my 2015 blog archives, and remember all the milestones that paved my year. I'm here today with the roundup of the posts that made me the happiest, that were the biggest joy to write, and that, hopefully, were inspiring for you, too. I'd like to thank every single one of you who visits this little space of mine, who reads my words and leaves thoughtful and kind comments. I'm very much looking forward to meeting you in the blogland in 2016, too! Thank you so much for reading!

Seasonal bucket listsI'm no stranger to never-ending to do lists, and I love the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I get from crossing things off. But in the midst of all the hustle, I can sometimes forget that there are not only the things I should do, but also those I'd love to do, but rarely seem to make enough time for. That's where my seasonal bucket lists come in handy: they are composed solely of things that often fall to the wayside because of the busy, things that bring me joy, make me happy and make the world around me a lovelier place. I've already begun to cross things off of my winter edition, and I'm planning to carry on with this tradition well into the new year.

On my nightstand. Few things in life bring me as much joy and happiness as reading books. There really is no better way to get out of my own head, unwind after a long day and calm down before going to sleep. I've always read a lot (one of my earliest childhood memories is hiding under the desk as my older brother learned his ABCs, and learning alongside him), but ever since I began putting together my monthly reading lists, the number of books I go through in a month even increased (to my immense satisfaction). Now I always have a book on hand, and as soon as I finish one, I immediately begin another. And I'm never at a loss at what to read next, because I always have my list at my fingertips. Here's to many more amazing books in 2016!

Monthly chic lists. Learning to be mindful, present in the moment and appreciative of what I have has been one of my biggest challenges this past year. I'm often guilty of powering relentlessly through my days, and I always have to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. This monthly roundup of things that made me smile does just that: it makes me slow down and appreciate all the little things that make me happy every day. And I'm so grateful for that.

Images by Stephani Buchman for Style me Pretty

Kitchen renovations. While renovating my apartment earlier this year, I spent countless hours browsing Pinterest for inspiring ideas and images. I was especially obsessed with white kitchens (and designed my dream one in the process), and this one really stood out from the rest. The color palette, the design, the styling....everything is perfect! (via Style me pretty living)

Preserving tomatoes. My parents had quite an epic harvest of tomatoes in their garden this year, and I took full advantage of the situation. .For two month straight I ate & made nothing but tomato recipes, and when I simply couldn't stand the look of a fresh tomato anymore, I turned to my canning jars, in order to preserve these little bits of sunshine for winter. I think I don't have to explain how happy I am when I can open a jar of homemade ketchup or tomato basil jam in the dead of winter. Pure joy.

On turning 29. This recap of my 28th year still brings smile to my lips. It was such an amazing, action-packed year filled with excitement, big changes, even bigger goals, a little bit of heartache and lots of achievement. One of my favorite years so far!

Image by Carin Olsson, via Gary Pepper Girl
Macarons and pearls reborn. Last but not least, this was the year when I relaunched Macarons and Pearls, with big dreams and ambitions, but not always enough time and energy to bring them all to life. And yet, I'm so happy I started writing again - it's such a wonderful source of inspiration, new ideas and happiness, and my life would definitely be much sadder and duller without it. I have some more big dreams for this little space in 2016, and I've made a promise to myself to make it more of a priority in my life. Here's to an amazing year of blogging!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Recipe roundup: New Year's Eve Appetizers

I've always had this thing for finger food: I love when my food looks good, and there's probably nothing more adorable than the mini versions of your favorite dishes. And what better occasion to indulge in these delicious little bites that the New Year's Eve? To be honest, I've never been a huge fan of wild NYE parties: somehow, each time I attended a party on New Year's Eve, it veered into a fiasco, if not a downright catastrophe. One time in high school, I spent the whole evening hiding from a man twice my age who kept stalking me, trying to convince me to go on a date with him. Another year, one of my friends stopped talking to me for a while, because she thought I spent way too much time talking to her boyfriend. And the last time I spent the NYE with my ex and his family, I was so exhausted, that I fell asleep in front of TV at half past ten, and almost missed the midnight champagne and fireworks altogether.

So for the past few years, I opted for more subdued, less extravagant, but all the more agreeable festivities with my family. We talk, laugh at stupid TV programs, read books and magazines, we drink wine, we pop a bottle of champagne at midnight...and we eat, of course! A lot. This year, I'm in charge of appetizers, and I have too many ideas to count. I've had mini burgers on my mind for a while, as well as herb & Parmesan crackers. Each year, I make homemade blini, and top them off with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and a tiny spoonful of salmon caviar. And this year, I'm also inspired by the mini veggie sticks with a fresh dip - you can never have too many veggies, right? My mouth's already watering, just thinking about all the delicious options.

Anyway, I may not be the last one to leave the dance floor on the New Year's Eve, but I'm also not the one to have a huge hangover. And I love that I can wake up early and full of energy on the New Year's Day. That way I can hit the ground running, and make a head start on my big goals and plans for 2016. And that's what I love most!

Images via: My baking addiction // BBC Good Food // Jenny Ge via Flickr // Cherry Tea Cakes

Veggie sticks. (via My baking addiction)

Salmon and cream cheese puffs. (via BBC Good Food)

Blini with various toppings. (via Jenny Ge via Flickr)

Rosemary Parmesan crackers. (via Cherry Tree Cakes)

Images via: Palachinka // Honestly Yum // B comme Bon // Chef in disguise

Mini burgers. (via Palachinka)

Ricotta crostini party. (via Honestly Yum)

Gougeres with herb cheese. (via B comme Bon)

Spinach feta mini rolls. (via Chef in disguise)

Images via: Damn delicious // The first year // Amelia by Linda Lomelino // Authentic suburban gourmet

Avocado egg rolls. (via Damn Delicious)

Spicy Dijon French fries. (via The first year)

Mini pizzas. (via Amelia by Linda Lomelino)

Pepperoni Caprese bites. (via Authentic suburban gourmet)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Weekend notes & link love #29

Image vie Half Baked Harvest

Ok, so you've probably already seen this video making waves all around the internet, but I couldn't not share it. It's just so spot on, accurate and hilarious! #instagramhusband (via A Beautiful Mess)

I can't say that I always agree with everything Sheryl Sandberg has to say, but this article really was spot on. Or, why men in the workplace help in the open, and let the women do the lion's share of behind-the-scenes work. (via The New York Times)

I think any blogger, newbie or seasoned, battles the fear of his work not being "good enough". We've all been there, and that's why I find Lisa's words to be truly comforting: "You have your unique blend of personality, perspective, style and timing." And I think it's true: as long as you stay authentic and true to yourself, your work will always be worth sharing! (via Elembee)

And since we're still in the Holiday daze, I also loved all these mamas talking about their Christmas traditions. Some of them are really worth a try! (via Style within reach)

And a few things you might have missed here on Macarons and Pearls:

The first day of winter arrived, and with it my Winter bucket list.

For the most part of December, my apartment has been a complete mess, and instead of decorating cookies, trimming the tree and DIY-ing my own ornaments, I was waiting for my last furniture to arrive. I'll be definitely saving this post for next year :)

These edible gifts are perfect not only for Christmas, but for any special occasion throughout the year.

Are you still on the lookout for the perfect desk calendar? Look no further.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Winter bucket list

Images via: Madame Figaro // Make and Takes  // Craftposure // four

It may be hard to believe, but so many things are coming to an end right now - 2015, that has been an incredible and eventful year for me. My work year, too: as of now, I've tied up all the loose ends at work, and I'm officially on holidays until January 11 (which, to me is pretty incredible, since this year I was only able to take a few days off here and there, not even a whole week. So almost three weeks away from the office sound like a total science fiction to me!) And my favorite season of all - autumn - ended as well, and today is the first day of winter. How come the more I want it to slow down, the more time flies away?

I'm still too wired up and restless to go all nostalgic on you - there will be plenty of time for that in the last days of this year. Instead, I'm going to focus on all the amazing things winter has to offer, and of which I'm planning to take full advantage. My original list was probably a mile long, but I've managed to edit it down to what I want to do / enjoy / make / eat the most. Cheers to the amazing three months ahead! And be sure to let me know what's on your list - I would love to hear about your favorite winter activities!

Go skiing again, after years and years. 

Perfect my homemade hot chocolate recipe - and make hot chocolate sticks again.

Set up my 2016 planner. 

Enjoy my favorite hot bubble bath brainstorming sessions.

Now that my furniture is finally complete, dive head first into the decorating.  

Images via: Pinch of yum // Pinterest // Kevin and Amanda // Unsophisticook  

Experiment with soup recipes. 

Start planning my summer vacation.

Bake homemade cinnamon buns - the epitome of winter comfort food.

Experiment with homemade popcorn seasonings.

Build a snowman in our garden - if there's snow, of course! 

Images via: Diethood // Amazon // Pinterest // Cute & Lovely 

Indulge in coffee spiked with my homemade eggnog.

Pick one cookbook (this one is a strong favorite) and cook every single recipe in it.

Visit my favorite wine shop more often. And drink only good wine, or none at all. 

Read, read, read, read...preferably by the fire, with a mug of something hot and delicious in hand.

Bundle up and go for a walk to admire Christmas lights while they're still up.

Images via: Condé Nast Traveller // Fine Art America // How sweet it is // Happy is a lark

Enjoy a spa getaway. 

Crack open my Romantic Venice 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Make homemade coffee syrups. 

Knit a pretty infinity scarf. 

Take up a new hobby.

Document it all with my phone. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Shopping: 2016 desk calendars on Etsy

Become more organized is one of my biggest ambitions for next year. I'm well aware that the simple act of investing in calendars, planners and other vehicles of organization won't miraculously turn me into a perfect time management whiz, but they can't hurt, right?

I've scoured my favorite Etsy shops for their prettiest 2016 offerings, and I've rounded up my favorites, that would look amazing sitting on my desk at home and in the office. What I love most about all these options is, that once the year is over and the calendar completed its original purpose, those beautiful photographs and illustrations can be used for inspiration and visual boards, for journaling and scrapbooking or even as an addition to a gallery wall. I'm a sucker for multitasking items!

Which one is your favorite?

Images via: Georgianna Lane // Eye Poetry Photography // Vita Nostra // Georgianna Lane 

Romantic Paris. (via Georgianna Lane)

Empire State of Mind. (via Eye Poetry Photography)

Italy. (via Vita Nostra)

Classic Paris. (via Georgianna Lane)

Images via Katherine Lenius: one // two

A year of flowers. (via Katherine Lenius)

A Vintage year. (via Katherine Lenius)

Images via: Wanderlust designer // Enchanted prints

Eat, drink, travel. (via Wanderlust Designer)

Calendar with inspirational and motivational quotes. (via Enchanted Prints)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Inspired by: Homemade edible Christmas gifts

Homemade cantuccini by Macarons and Pearls

Christmas is only a few days away (say whaaaaaaat?), and unless you are one of those perfectly organized superwomen, and you have it all figured out since September, you are probably scrambling for some last minute Christmas gifts. Just like I am. Truth is, I'm only now emerging from the giant mess that my apartment has been for the past few days. But now that the furniture is installed, the mess is tackled, the pantry is more or less organized (I'll have to get back to that one really soon), and my tree is trimmed  (in the shades of gold and pink, no less!), I can finally put my feet on the coffee table with a glass of wine start wrapping all the presents, and start thinking about some last minute gifts.

I've always loved the idea of edible gifts - it's precisely that kind of gift that keeps on giving long after Christmas is gone. I know that it's probably late for a perfect homemade vanilla extract or infused olive oil (you can still whip up a batch, and give it away with a recommended date of use). But a homemade tea set, mulling spices or bacon salt (!!!) are bound to make any foodie on Santa's list happy. And we all have at least one overbooked businesswoman in our lives, who would be happy for a big basket of homemade Christmas cookies, especially when she has no time left to bake them herself. I know I would be infinitely grateful for one right now :)

Here's a roundup of edible gifts that I'd love to give and receive this year. What's on your list?

Images via: Tasty Yummies // Camille Styles // Sugar and Charm // Honestly YUM

Homemade vanilla extract. (via Tasty Yummies)

Christmas morning breakfast set. (via Camille Styles)

Lavender infused sugar. (via Sugar and Charm)

Bacon infused salt. (via Honestly YUM)

Images via: Tasty Yummies // A joyful riot // Style me pretty Living // Created by Diane

Infused olive oils. (via Tasty Yummies)

Vanilla bean creamy syrup.  (via A joyful riot)

Mulled wine kit. (via Style me pretty Living)

Red velvet cookies.  (via Created by Diane)

Do you ever give away homemade edible gifts? If so, what is your favorite thing to offer?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Inspired by: DIY Christmas ornaments

Image via Tell love and party

I had some really big plans for this past weekend. I wanted to finally trim my Christmas tree, bake and assemble my traditional gingerbread house, get a head start on my 2016 planning and goal setting and enjoy some quiet time at home. The epitome of Advent weekend bucket list.

And then on Friday, I found out that I would have my living room furniture and my pantry delivered and assembled first thing on Monday morning, and all my plans for R&R went right out of the window, I spent the past two days moving my stuff out of the way and clearing out the necessary space. And I realized that you never really know how much "stuff" you own until you have to move it all. Amiright? Maybe I should just cave in and finally read Marie Kondo's book like everyone else in the blogland. Would that help with my hoarding tendencies?

So right now, the space dedicated to my brand new Christmas tree is occupied by a giant stack of books and magazines, walking in my kitchen is an exercise for a contortionist, and my goal binder is currently nowhere to be found. Oh well, at least I have my gingerbread house baked, although it's nowhere near to being assembled. Progress, not perfection, is my motto for this Christmas time.

I'll probably spend the last days leading to Christmas trying to put some order in my apartment - the least I can do is clear a path for Santa to bring me my presents :) I've been looking forward to decorating my first Christmas in my new apartment for weeks, and I'm not going to let a "little" mess stand in my way. And although I would love to make some of my ornaments myself, that's probably not going to happen. It seems that I still need to go to work, and sleep. #bummer

But while there are no more ambitious DIY projects in my immediate future (I wouldn't be able to locate my craft supplies even if I wanted to), I can still admire the craftiness of my fellow bloggers and live vicariously through their DIY bonanza. If nothing else, I'll have plenty of inspiration for next year :)

Now tell me, did you make any DIY ornaments this year? If so, how did it go? And where do you usually find inspiration for trimming your tree?

Images via: Homey oh my // Brittany makes // The Crafted life // How about orange

Clay "cookie" ornaments. (via Homey oh my)

Globe ornament. (via Brittany Makes)

Temporary tattoo ornaments. (via The Crafted life)

Paper origami ornaments. (via How about orange)

Images via: The Crafted life // View along the way // Vitamini Handmade // Say yes

Patterned ornaments, 6 ways. (via The Crafted life)

Glittery snowball ornaments. (via View along the way)

Brushstroke ornaments. (via Vitamini handmade)

Painted mod wooden ornaments. (via Say yes)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Words to live by, December 2015

Image via Erika Brechtel

There are many words I could choose for this month. Like slow down and spend more time with my family and friends. Enjoy the first Christmas in my very own home. Drink my way though as many glasses of mom's infamous eggnog as humanly possible. Bake and decorate pretty gingerbread cookies to eat and to give away to my friends.

After all, I have so many fun things and activities lined up on my Advent bucket list! But when it comes to the words I truly want to ponder and focus on this December, I would pick only two: reflect and plan.

Reflect. 2015 has been a busy, eventful and amazing year for me. It was chock full of valuable (and sometimes painful) life lessons - and I will surely have much to write about in my traditional annual Lessons learned post I'll be sharing at the end of this month (and year). In terms of years flying by, this was also one of the fastest years to pass by(or maybe even the fastest one ever). I mean, I literally blinked once in May, and suddenly it was October! At times, it was literally impossible to grasp and handle all the things happening to me.

So many things went down in the past 12 months, and now that the year is drawing to a close, I want to try to put some order in my thoughts, memories, notes and journal entries. In short, I want to slow down in this hectic pre-Christmas time, put away my iPhone and iPad and just sit down with a pen and paper and reflect upon everything, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, and meaningful that filled my 365 days of this year. Per usual, I'll follow Lara's 6-part program, and I'll probably end up with one notebook filled with thoughts and notes, and a mile-long list of goals for the next year.

Which brings me directly to my second word for this month: Plan. My laundry list of dreams is longer than my arm. Some of my dreams are tiny, some are bigger but achievable, a few are lofty and one or two are downright "you're-out-of-your-mind" crazy. I don't have a problem with those small and achievable ones. I can always easily cross them off my to do list. It's those big, lofty ones that are much harder for me to grasp.

I have read somewhere that we overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can do in a year. I think this sums the way I function rather well. I can do a ton in a day, but when I look over my year, I can see how scattered and unorganized my actions sometimes are. That's why one of my biggest goals for next year will be mastering the goal setting process.

I have some amazing dreams in mind for 2016, but as they say, a dream without a plan is just a wish. And I don't want to "just wish" anymore. I want to have a real, achievable plan for an amazing 2016. Who else is with me?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Inspired by: Modern Christmas decor

Images via Bliss at Home
I have always been inspired by modern Christmas decorating style - the traditional red & green combo is not really my jam. Either I'm drawn to ethereal and romantic pastels, or to bold and sophisticated saturated hues like raspberry pink and glittery gold. This beautiful home tour has it all: sparkling metallics, monochromatic black & white, pops of hot pink and unique ideas (like the coffee table tray filled with ornaments, or the bar cart all decked out). I'm still quite not sure what my own Christmas decor would look like (since it's my first Christmas in my own apartment, I want it to be something special :), but I'll definitely be taking notes from these photos.

See the rest of the home tour at Bliss at Home.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Weekend notes & link love #27

Image via Waiting on Martha

I've been on the lookout for effective at-home workouts, and whatever Camille recommends, is a must-try. No need for a cocktail party to try these moves out! (via Camille Styles)

Fifteen tips on reducing holiday stress. These are so amazing and spot on! (via I heart organizing)

The most heartwarming and touching story I've read all week. These words really struck a chord with me: "Because real love, once blossomed, never disappears. It may get lost with a piece of paper, or transform into art, books or children, or trigger another couple's union while failing to cement your own. But it's always there, lying in wait for a ray of sun, pushing through thawing soil, insisting upon its rightful existence in our hearts and on earth." (via The New York Times Modern Love)

An inspiring feature about Jessica Alba and her Honest company. Her words on being an entrepreneur are so spot on! (via Vanity Fair)

Image via

What you might have missed on Macarons and Pearls:

Books on my nightstand this month.

My advent bucket list.

Things I loved most in November.

Gingerbread cookies inspiration galore.

Friday, December 4, 2015

On my nightstand, December 2015

Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman: Happy handmade home. Raise your hands if you love A Beautiful Mess and the talented ladies behind its phenomenal success - Elsie and Emma. A Beautiful Mess was one of the first blogs I read all those years ago, when I first dipped my toes into the blogging world. I remember going through their archives and wondering, how the heck were they able to do ALL that? Fast forward a few years, and I'm still equally, if not more, amazed by Elsie's and Emma's creativity, success and incredible work ethics. Their latest book on home decor has been sitting on my nightstand for far too long, and as I'm slowly finishing furnishing my apartment (it's a loooong process, guys!), I'm also gathering inspiration in the decorating department. And this book is just so colorful, vibrant and fun!

Beatriz Williams: Along the infinite sea. I'm probably going to repeat myself, but Beatriz Williams is my spirit animal. And one of my favorite authors ever. I devoured all her books (the last one only a few weeks ago), and I'm anxiously awaiting the delivery of her latest offering. I grew fond of Pepper Schuyler as Tiny's reckless, sexy and confident sister, and I'm eager to see how her own story unfolds next.

John Green: Paper towns. No one does YA literature better than Jennifer Niven and John Green. It took me quite some time to get over The fault in our stars, but I'm finally ready to dive into another of John's amazing stories. This one is about a unique and mysterious Margo, and Q who is helplessly in love with her, even if from afar. Many adventures ahead!

Terry Hayes: I am Pilgrim. I'm a sucker for breathtaking thrillers (I love biting my nails and trying to unmask the murderer while safely in my bed), and this one was lauded ass the best thriller of 2014 (where have I been hiding?). Several brutal murders occur across the globe and they are all linked to a terrible crime against humanity that's being plotted. And only one man can stop it. This book is bound to give me nightmares, but I don't even care!

Susan Cain: Quiet, The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. I'm an introvert. Always was, always will be. I don't like speaking in public, I'm a good listener, but only really open up with the people I trust and know best, and I'm absolutely terrible at self-promotion. Not a particularly winning set of characteristics for a budding entrepreneur, I'll give you that. But there's Susan Cain's book to give me hope - she points out the strongest traits of character of introverts, and talks about introverts who managed to turn their apparent shortcomings into strengths. I simply can't wait to read this one!

Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras: Built to last, Successful habits of visionary companiesDrawing upon a six-year research project at the Stanford University, the authors studied 18 successful and long-lasting companies in direct comparison to one of their top competitors. And they tried to find the answer to the questions of what makes the truly exceptional companies different from their competition and what common practices these great companies followed throughout their history. The answers are bound to be surprising and inspiring, whether you're an entrepreneur or not.

Stieg Larsson: The Millenium trilogy. One of the all-time best thrillers and page turners I've ever read. Dark, twisted, dangerous and original, this story helped me survive my times working at the European Commission in Brussels, where my work tasks (or rather, the lack of thereof) bored me to death. I used to read these book in my office, when I couldn't take any more pointless Excel tables (keeping it honest here). I recently purchased the complete trilogy, and I already finished The Girl with the dragon tattoo. It's still as twisted and gripping as I remembered it!

David Lagercrantz: The girl in the spider's web. When I first found out that there was a sequel to the Millenium trilogy, written by a new author, my first reaction was skeptical. But I was curious, too, and after hearing some really rave reviews, I finally caved in. After all, Lisbeth Salander is one of the most unique, original, compelling and colorful female characters I've ever come across. And I can't wait to see what mess she manages to get herself into this time. I'm pretty sure there is another sleepless night ahead of me!

What are you currently reading?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Inspired by: Beautiful gingerbread cookies

Images via: Sweetopia // Ana Rosa

So, it's official: I have gone gingerbread crazy! I've been saving recipes right and left, and pinning inspiring images like a madwoman - this year I'm totally in a gingerbread Christmas mood since the beginning of December! I've been sketching my gingerbread house - I draw inspiration from real houses and I'm quite ambitious this year, I have a gingerbread tree and bell in mind, and all this resulted in me preparing almost 2 kilos of gingerbread dough. It's currently chilling in my fridge, waiting for its big opportunity.

I'm also quite ambitious when it comes to cookie decorating this year. I usually just pipe on some white royal icing and call it a day (it's because due to my poor Christmas planning skills, I used to do this two days before Christmas Eve - there was never much time left to be overly creative). But I really want to up my game this year - maybe it's because for the first time ever I'll be doing my Christmas baking in my very own kitchen. I've been collecting inspiration for days, and I've finally narrowed it down to a few main themes: classics, pastels and reds & greens. And I can't wait to try my hand at more intricate and delicate designs!

Which ones are your favorite?

Images via: Punchbowl // Frazi's Cakes // Hint of Vanilla // Bela Stitches

The classics

Images via: Hello Naomi // Caramel Cookie // Cake & Allie // Hello Naomi

The pastels #1

Images via: Juliet Stallwood // Made by Mary // Cute sweet things // Sarah via Flickr

The reds & greens

Images via: Glorious treats // Sweet cupcakes and treats // Sweet cupcakes and treats // Glorious treats

The pastels #2

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent bucket list

Images via: one // two // three // four

It's not going to be groundbreaking when I say that Christmas is my favorite time of year. I never used to be one of those blasé people who hate Christmas just because this attitude sets them apart from everyone else. Nor do I buy that nonsense that it's the most stressful, anxiety-packed holiday of all. It most definitely is not, not in and of itself. Just like pretty much anything else, it's what you make of it. If you get yourself in a frenzied state of "oh-my-God-how-am-I-going-to-bake-all-those-cookies-and-clean-out-that-house-and-buy-all-those-perfect-presents", then, no doubt, your Christmas will be full of stress and unmet expectations.

But if you rather decide to be kinder to yourself (and to your loved ones), when you focus on your relationships instead of the mad gift giving, when you stop and smell the gingerbread, then you can enjoy this time to its fullest without any necessary pressure. Give yourself some grace and don't expect the perfection. So what if your windows aren't sparkling clean? What if you haven't baked 50 different kinds of cookies? What if, instead, you decided to take your parents (or any other family members) to a Christmas markets and sampled every single stand with mulled wine? Or what if you used this time of year to give back to people who aren't as fortunate as you are?

There are countless ways you can spend the following four weeks, but I urge you to pick those that will bring you joy, rather than stress. And if you need any more inspiration, below are the activities I'm most looking forward to during Advent. Here's to a happy and joyful December!

Bake a gingerbread house. This has quickly become a holiday tradition - this will be my fourth year of house building, and I'm already brainstorming ideas, floor plans and the number of chimneys :)

Watch all my favorite Christmas movies. Love Actually, The Holiday, Home Alone, While you were sleeping, A Christmas carol...and the list goes on.

Bake an assortment of pretty and delicious Christmas cookies. And organize a cookie swap with my mom and aunt.

Make my own mix of mulling spices and perfect my signature mulled wine recipe. And get shamelessly tipsy when sampling it.

Images via: one // two // three// four

Make a paper wreath for my front door. I've seen countless inspiration on Pinterest, and my hands are itching to get back into DIY projects.

Bake a gingerbread Christmas tree.

Visit Christmas markets, buy the mistletoe and all the honey I can carry. And sample Christmas punch, and mulled wine, and eat a sausage and just enjoy this lovely moment with my parents.

Start a collection of unique ornaments. I've had my eyes on Swarovski annual star ornament for ages, and I think it's time I bit the bullet and started my very own collection of sparkling beautiful Christmas ornaments.

Images via: one // two // three // four

Make my own Christmas cards and send them out on time this year. This is the one thing I always want to do, but never quite seem to manage on time. Being organized is key, apparently!

Make time to read the Nativity scenes from the Bible. And amid all the shopping and baking bonanza, take some time to reflect on the true meaning of this time of year.

Make DIY ornaments. I have my Fimo clay ready!

Pick a new scented candle for Christmas time. I love the idea of a seasonal signature scent. I seem to have a strong olfactive memory - remembering periods of my life when smelling particular scents. Right now, I'm on the lookout for the perfect candle that will remind me of my first Christmas in my new apartment.

Make spiked eggnog and share it with my mom. This is one of our oldest shared traditions, and it simply doesn't feel like Christmas time, until we share the first batch of our legendary spiked eggnog.

Images via: one // two // three // four

Put together a Christmas playlist on Spotify, turn the volume up and sing along. After all, I'm living alone, so I can do this shamelessly whenever I want :)

Sew new Christmas tablecloths and napkins for my dining table. I have already picked up the pretty fabrics, now it's time to pull my Singer out of the storage.

Make my own wrapping paper with kraft paper. This is another Pinterest project I've been eyeing for ages! I have my kraft paper, colors, stamps, twine and scissors ready, now it's time to get creative.

Make edible gifts for family and friends. Infused sugar and salt, mulling spices, cookies in a jar, homemade vanilla extract, herbal tea...too many ideas, too little time!

Create a new holiday tradition for our family. I'm still thinking about this one. What about you? Do you have any special family traditions that you cherish and keep up? Let me know!
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