Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Three Years on Duolingo


Day by day, my Duolingo streak got to three years. Now I almost can't imagine not starting my day with a cup of coffee and an hour of German exercises. I definitely prefer the English-German version, with the sound turned off, where I translate out loud every single sentence in German and then compare my translation to the German answer. The thing is, that Duolingo exercises provide you mostly with ready-made sentences in the target language and you are expected to fill in the blanks, translate into your base language or listen to and then build the sentence you just heard out of the word blocks. All of that is useful, no doubt, but it is kind of too easy and doesn't require that much word recalling and sentence building. The way i use the app is much slower, but forces me to translate simultaneously all the time and improves my active use of the language.

Lately I've been listening to Youtube channels in German a lot. Here are some of my latest finds, which I'd like to put in a good word for:

Learn German Relaxed with Gabriel has some grammar videos, but most enjoyable for me are Gabriel's walks around in Taiwan, during which he tries to speak slowly and very clearly and to talk about his surroundings and various other entertaining topics. Absolutely excellent for a beginner listener.

Deutsch-Podcast is a channel by two ladies, both German exam instructors. I've listened to them speaking about various topics, also fairly easy and understandable for a beginner.

Deutsches Geplapper - this one can be a bit more difficult to understand, dependent on the guests, but I've listened to some interesting polyglots, discussing various language learning strategies and personal experiences and I found it worth the effort.

My level is probably somewhere around A2, modest B1.1, with probably some B2 grammar, but gaps in A2 vocabulary, when measured according to a standardized system. I still have a lot of the English-German tree left, plus almost 20 units of the revision part of the German-English tree. I really hope the developers would add new parts to the trees, as I can't imagine what else could make me study German every day, but my Duolingo. Of course, it would be smashing, if they added a German - Bulgarian section, but I'm not holding my breath :(

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Bistritza - Zeleznitza in January

Our Friday hike was along one of the closest to home and easiest trails, from the village of Bistritza to the village of Zeleznitza and back along the same trail, which is part of the low altitude Vitosha circuit.

However, on a winter day, the path is not so easy, especially after a sequence of sunny days and freezing nights - parts of the trail were covered with melting ice and very difficult to traverse. 

The trail is extremely popular, but on a cold Friday it was almost empty - on our way to Zeleznitza we met with absolutely no one, on the way back we did encounter a couple of other hikers.

A curious anecdote - there are two parking lots at the start of the trail - one at the very end of the village, where we left the car, and one 1 km further along. This further section of the asphalt road has been abandoned and I believe it is closed for cars (theoretically), but people usually drive to the end of it and park their cars at the old parking lot, where the road meets the trail. However, just before the parking lot, one of Bistritza river tributaries had over-flooded a section of the road, it was completely frozen from bank to bank and extremely dangerous for driving. We were so relieved to have left the car at the other parking lot, unfortunately there were cars in the dangerous section and two of them had already had a minor accident, sliding along the ice and bumping into one other.

Hike info:

Destination: low altitude circuit trail Bistritza - Zeleznitza
Mountain: Vitosha
Total length: 13 km
Elevation gain: 80 m
Total duration (plus picnic and rests): 3 and a half hours
Average difficulty: 3 / 10 

Me-made items, worn on this hike:

Husband: boxers, Knipmode cargo pants, hat, socks, scarf
I: lingerie, "Page" hoodie, socks, hat, gloves, scarf


We had our picnic on the sunlit benches by the river and quickly headed back.

I love refreshing winter hikes, when the sun is shining and the air is cold and crisp :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Gigintzi 2024

Our first hike for 2024 comes a bit late in the month. The weather around Christmas and the New Year was very nice and mild for winter, but unfortunately, we caught a flu (or other) virus and first I, then the boys were under the weather. It was nothing dramatic, some temperature, muscle pains and all the other extras of cold weather viruses, that persist to linger long after the virus has been taken care of.

The silver lining of this particular cloud was, that I had two afternoons of lying propped on the sofa and reading the latest Booker winner - Timeshelter by the Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov - an excellent read, which I would heartily recommend to everyone.

As we got more or less back to normal and the weather last Friday was forecast to be the last warm and sunny day in weeks to come, we decided to roam the hills of Cherna Gora mountain. We drove to the village of Gigintzi, left the car on the completely empty parking lot of Giginski monastery and took the path to the summit of the mountain - peak Tumba.

The path was snowless, though muddy at places, perfect for a winter hike. The weather around noon was very sunny and pleasant, though a bit windy.

Hike info:

Destination: peak Tumba (1129 m)
Mountain: Cherna Gora
Total length: 11 km
Elevation gain: 150 m twice (980m - 1129 m - 980m - 1118m - 980m)
Total duration (plus picnic): 3 hours and a half
Average difficulty: 3 / 10

Me-made items, worn on this hike:
Husband: men's boxers, Knipmode Cargo pants, Knipmode blouse, socks, hat, shawl in the backpack
I: lingerie, Sinclair Lotte hoodie, socks, hat, gloves, shawl in the backpack (used at some point)

As it took us less than an hour to climb the peak, we decided to continue down the path west, to the hunter's lodge. This path is so pleasant, open field and with great views to the mountains of Kraishte, that it is completely worth the hour and a half drive to Gigintzi.

The hunter's lodge. It is downhill from from the peak to the lodge, so this hike is a bit of a mixed bag of up and downhill all the way. We decided not to have our picnic around the lodge, but to turn back and have a lunch on one of the meadows we had passed on the way down.

Back uphill. While we were having our picnic, some clouds gathered above us and the temperatures dropped a bit. Late in the evening, the winter was back and now it is cold again and the streets are covered with snow and ice. I am really glad we took advantage of the perfect Friday we had.
Back to the monastery and the car.
We had never visited the place on a work day and it was so unusually empty! The monastery is big and well loved and full of crowds on weekends, but this Friday it was only us there.
We took a turn around the grounds and delighted with our hike drove back to Sofia.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Blueberry Cake

I didn't plan to blog about this cake that I made yesterday afternoon, but it turned out so, so delicious, that I want the recipe in my recipe book, that is my blog.

I found the recipe somewhere on FB before Christmas, wrote it down on a small flying piece of paper, made it once in the form of muffins and forgot about it. The muffins were OK, but nothing special. Yesterday I came upon the piece of paper among my German notebooks and decided to make the recipe again, but this time as a cake. I'm not sure what I made different, but the resulting cake is super soft and moist, very aromatic and just a tad sour from the blueberries. I'm definitely making this again and I mean to try it with sour cherries too (as I have them in my freezer right now :).


  • 2 eggs
  • 180 g sugar
  • 40 sunflower oil + 40 g melted butter
  • 220 g flour
  • 130 g milk
  • 10 g vanilla sugar, pinch of salt
  • 7 g baking powder + baking soda
  • 140 g frozen blueberries


Beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the oil and melted butter, incorporate in the eggs mixture. Add the milk, incorporate. Add the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla sugar. Gently mix. Finally add the frozen berries. I did not let them soften this time, just added them directly from the freezer. Pour the batter into a baking form and bake in a preheated oven at 190C until golden. 

Serve cold with coffee or tea and enjoy!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Flared Jeans Burda 7050

So, finally, a photosession of my flared jeans. I should confess I really struggled with these and I am not at all happy with the fit. I made a muslin and I did some corrections to the pattern that the muslin indicated - I added 2 cm to the back rise to take into account my fuller seat and I also  made a -1 cm correction for low seat, which was supposed to take care of the back horizontal pleats. However, they are even more pronounced now, so I'm not so sure about that correction.

Although I am more a 36 than a 34 Burda size, I've noticed that their pants run big on me, so I made the 34 size and even it is a bit big on me. I took in the waist by some 6 cm and I like how the pants fit my back seat. I only wish I had cut the waist band on the length and not on the width, as my denim is very stretchy on the width and the band stretched when I topstitched it.

Size: 34, shortened - 9 cm, corrections for low seat and full seat
Fabric: denim with lycra
Time to make: 10 days

I like the decorations I did on the back pockets, these are my own addition. I believe I saw something similar on Pinterest.

The fit at the front is passable, but at the back of the legs there are so many different pleats :( I redid the inner seam three times, but I couldn't figure a way to get rid of them.

There is something going around the knees, but despite all the fitting videos I watched on Youtube, I still have no idea what is wrong with the fit and why there is so much crunched fabric around my knees, back and front.

I left the jeans unhemmed, I intend to wear them and wash them at least a couple of times, before I finally hem them, I don't want them too short.

I bought a new piece of light denim fabric and I want a pair of flared jeans for the summer. It would be better if I could figure how to make these fit me better, but even if I don't, I think I can live with what I've succeeded so far. These will definitely get a lot of wear.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Ravensburger Puzzle Mediterranean Harbour

It's been almost three years, since I last assembled a puzzle. I've had this Ravensburger puzzle for several years, but somehow the moment for its assembly never came - until this New Year. 

I had meant to take it out earlier, but was so busy with sewing and cooking, that the first free moment came in the evening of January the 1st. Husband was intrigued and quickly joined me in the assembly and in the end he assembled the greater part of it.

Puzzle: Mediterranean Harbour
Manufacturer: Ravensburger 1500 pcs.
Time to assemble: 3 days

:Starting January 01 in the evening

:Morning January 02

:Evening January 02

:Evening January 03


Assembling this puzzle was a true pleasure, Ravensburger is a reputable make and the quality of the puzzle was perfect, the pieces joined ideally and the colors were well chosen. It reminded me why I like assembling puzzles and I feel like repeating the pleasure soon. However I have so many puzzles that I feel more like taking out some of the old ones, rather than buying a new one. 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Gaby's Andean Jacket

Gaby was with us for almost two weeks and I wanted to use the time and sew something for her, that I could measure directly on her and she could take with herself when leaving back for Vienna. She immediately chose an Andean jacket for herself. 

Originally I had about 2 m of the fabric, in two 1 m cuts and I had quite significant leftovers after I made my own jacket. It was clear that the fabric itself wouldn't suffice, so I went downtown and found some suitable complimentary knit fabric, and also more of the same purple polyester lining, which I liked so much for my jacket.

As Gaby is taller than me, I made her jacket a bit longer than mine - as much as the fabric allowed and I also added length to the sleeves. Cutting the pieces, matching the stripes, fitting everything within limited fabric, with some fabric defects at that, which I had to work around, was one of the biggest challenges I have faced sewing. But I love these Tetris games with fabric, so I might say I had fun with this project.

Size: Regular , shortened -4 cm, 4 S with added 2.5 cm to the sleeve length
Fabric: French Terry / double knit; lining - polyester jersey
Time to make: 6 days

The jacket is almost identical to mine, with the exception of the back, which has a dark navy insertion. I actually like that solid piece a lot and find it more a feature than a bug of the jacket. Some other compromises had to me made too, but they are not significant and noticeable - the collar is not a single piece, like in my jacket, but is made of one front layer and two pieces, making the back layer. The bottom band is also made out of two pieces - the outer one is striped, the inner one is solid color.

Still, despite the patched up work here and there, I think it turned out perfect and hope she will enjoy wearing it.