A Very Romanian Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to yours! Wishing you all a wonderful day full of love, laughter, mimosas, and delicious food.

Yesterday, I spent the vast majority of the day baking pastries for Christmas and I used my own website for a couple recipes. However, I noticed that I somehow never shared the recipe I use for Romanian cozonaci, which are sweet egg bread pastries filled with either poppyseed filling or a walnut and rum-soaked white raisin mixture.

They’re traditional in Romania for holidays like Christmas and Easter, but they’re not exclusive to the holidays.

Here is a link to the recipe I used, and for those of you too lazy to hop to another webpage, a break down below:

Romanian Cozonac

INGREDIENTS (for the dough)

1.5 cups lukewarm water
1.5 Tbsp granulated yeast
1.5 Tbsp salt
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup honey
1.5 cups (3 sticks) melted unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
7.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water)

DIRECTIONS (for the dough)

  • Mix yeast with a tablespoon of water, then mix with salt, eggs, honey, and melted butter with the 1.5 cups of water in a large bowl.
  • Mix in the flour but do not knead. I used a stand mixer here.
  • Once everything is incorporated, cover and let stand for 2 hours to grow.
  • After two hours, prep your work center with some flour (or oil) and knead the dough, then divide into 4.
  • Rollerpin it out into a large sheet and spread poppyseed filling or half of your walnut mixture, and then roll up and form into whichever shape you’re baking.
  • Bake dough in whatever form (loaf, brioche, cozonac) in the preheated oven at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes (until golden brown) with the rack in the middle position.

INGREDIENTS (for the walnut filling)

200 g walnuts, finely ground
100 g brown sugar
2 egg whites
3 Tbsp cacao
1/3 cup rum or brandy
1 cup white raisins to be plumped in the liquour

DIRECTIONS (for the walnut filling)

  • Plump raisins in rum for at least one hour – I do it over night to maximum flavor.
  • Beat egg whites to soft peaks
  • Add sugar, beat.
  • Add cocoa, beat.
  • Add walnuts and the rum-soaked raisins and mix.

Enjoy!


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A Walk Through Cranbrook

Today was the first day of the rest of my life. 

Without being too cryptic, I’ll say that I did things today that were cathartic and healing and I received messages and support that I needed to hear and I am grateful and thankful for the people in my life that continue to lift me up and make me feel valued. 

That said, I gifted myself an early Christmas gift last month for Black Friday and bought Adobe Creative Cloud and thankfully have Photoshop back! I’ve been tinkering around in it (and Lightroom) but today I spent some time at Cranbrook and came home with a handful of great shots.

While I was there, a lady named Loretta walked up to me and started asking me questions about what I was taking a picture of and showed me some of her photography as well. We ended up spending well over an hour walking the grounds and I learned a lot of fascinating things about the architecture of the surrounding buildings. 

We exchanged  all kinds of stories and life experiences and funny enough, before I left the house I had stuck a few of my business cards in my pocket thinking “you never know who you’ll meet”. She was so interested in my creative pursuits, I ended up giving her one of my cards. Loretta, if you’re reading this, you are an incredible lady and I adore your vivaciousness and thirst for knowledge. 

That said, here are a couple of the photos I took today. The second photo is the last one I took before Loretta took me on a whirlwind tour of the grounds. 

Jungle Fever

I realized when I posted these photos on my Instagram accounts that my photography Instagram (@vivianapodinaphotography) still says I’m participating (PROCRASTINATING) in the r/WeeklyPhotos 52 week challenge. However, I haven’t looked at that challenge since March. The year isn’t over yet and I’d really like to catch up and finish the challenge with everyone else, so in an effort to have no more “zero-days”, I’m going to challenge myself to finish this challenge.

That said, I didn’t go into these photos with the intent of them coming out how they did at all. I was simply happy with another great makeup look and wanted to capture it in photos.

I added freckles to my face with an eyebrow pencil, a makeup trend and trick that I feel adds more dimension to an overall look, but especially so in photography. One of my favorite photo aesthetics is that of Claire Luxton, who uses her Photoshop skills to hyper-intensify gorgeous details like freckles and gem-colored eyes to bring out her subjects. I used her photography as reference and inspiration while editing, and brought out my faux freckles in this series.

I watched a few of her videos on Youtube to see how she edits and I combined a couple new tricks from her style of editing with my own. I’m very pleased with how these photos turned out and I think I might have to do some Twitch streams again in the future of my photo-editing because this was honestly so much fun.

I use myself as my subject matter for portraits about 95% of the time, but I’d really like to expand that and test myself and my skills in bringing out other people’s personalities and stories through my photography.

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Ginger Hair, Ginger Life

I had a brief dance with blonde for two weeks this month but alas, decided it wasn’t for me.

So I’m back to ginger in full force and my makeup game was STRONG yesterday so OBVIOUSLY that means I whipped out the camera and took some new shots.

Luci stopped by and “guarded” me while I was shooting, so I got a couple shots in with him too.

I particularly enjoy the last picture in this set, but it just reminds me that I really need to invest in a backdrop. The garage door is a great white canvas most of the time. But sometimes I really just want a plain, untextured background. It’s on my to do list.

Enjoy :)

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Poppy Fields and Memories

IT. HAS. BEEN. A. WHILE.

Have I been keeping up with the r/WeeklyPhotos 52 week challenge?

No. Because I suck. And I barely have time to do extracurricular activities outside of my work/gym, in truth. However, I am determined to catch up, so stayed tuned.

In order to balance out my schedule, I took the day off from the gym today and I had some time to shoot flowers around the house.¬†Our gigantic rose bush is in bloom right now, but tonight I’m going to share my favorite photo of the poppies in our front garden.

My earliest memories of poppies hark back to summers in the country side of Romania. Our next door neighbors’ backyard was FILLED with poppies and toward the end of summer, their youngest daughter Maria and I would pick the dried pods and eat poppy seeds like they were candy.

I recall everyone telling me not to eat too much because it would make me fall asleep. But while Maria did pass the fuck out, I would be totally energized. They have the same effect to this day. These poppies, however, are nothing like the tennis ball sized beasts that grew as tall as my 5 year old self.

They’re gorgeous nonetheless, so please enjoy and come back for more photos soon! It’s flower season!

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Week 8: Zoom Burst x Technical

Definitely still playing catch up, but listen.

This zoom burst challenge really got me challenged. And I’m giving up on it. I know I’ve achieve it before – and you know what, I’ll include one of my favorite shots from that time at the end – but this time around? I cannot get it down. So I’m calling this one a wrap and moving on.

It’s not really an effect I try to achieve, like, ever, anyway.

And then, here’s an old selfie from 6 years ago! in Philadelphia, when Maria and experimented with our cameras one night. I think we got the zoom burst down that night.

Week 7: Fill the Frame x Composition

There’s several elements about this week’s challenge I want to talk about.

Firstly, when I first read the theme, I was instantly excited. I LOVE close-up, frame-filling photography. In fact, often times I have to remind myself to pull back and capture more in the frame. So this week’s challenge was a bit like home.

Secondly, I’ve been wanting to recreate a photoshoot I did several years ago with ice cubes. So I did. It basically involves melting an ice cube in your mouth and letting the water be pulled by gravity to the ground. It’s messy, but it’s worth it.

Thirdly, I ordered a new wig and it came in as I was prepping for this shoot, so OBVIOUSLY I had to throw it in there.

Lastly, afterwards, as I was trying to figure out zoom bursts, I discovered aperture priority actually makes for amazing selfies.

Therefore, for this week’s challenge, I’m submitting THREE! photos and they all fill the frame. With my face. You’re welcome.

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f1.8 – 1/50 – 500 ISO

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f1.8 – 1/160 – 400 ISO

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f/1.8 – 1/160 – 400 ISO