City life · Life · Miscellaneous and interesting

How I get organised for a weekend away 

On Saturday i will be hopping on a train to Lille with the boyfriend. I’m so excited about this trip, it’ll be the perfect ending to the dullest month of all — January. Coming back from the Christmas break is giving me a hard time, so a weekend away is the perfect solution to the long cold days ahead of us.

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Long cold days in Northern Europe are not too bad though…

Last year we went to Ghent around the same period and had such a lovely time that this year I decided I should repeat the quick get away to another favourite destination – Lille.

1. Book a cheap and nicely located hotel.

It’s just one night and it’s a city trip. Meaning no luxury is necessary, no need for a fancy spa either, as we’re gonna be spending most of our time outside the room. My plan is to stick to 3-4 star hotels, you cannot go too wrong especially in small cities like Lille that are much more budget-friendly than Paris or London.

2. Get out the earliest possible. Come back early too.

This is my golden rule for short trips in winter. Since days are shorter, I prefer catching a really early train/plane/ride to make sure I can most of the day light. I’m sacrificing my Saturday morning sleep for this, but I’m making it up on Sunday! And I also leave early enough on Sunday afternoon to have enough time to go back, and prepare for the coming Monday. This of course all changes in the summer when I really take my time traveling as daylight in Northern Europe last for as long as 10pm!!!! (Ah those summer nights….)

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Ghent when-the-lights-go-out is definitely a must-see.

3. Find two brunch spots, two fancy restaurants and two street food spots.

You won’t need more. And if their wine list is good, you won’t event need a bar. And you might as well book them already as this will take some considerable pressure off. I remember last year we ended up in Ghent without a dinner reservation and I was stressed and then cranky and then super angry-hungry when we could not find a decent place to eat. If you’re nothing like me, meaning if your mood depends totally on whether you’re fed or not, and you HATE make bookings at the same time, try to anticipate a bit and it’ll all be fine. I hope. Arghhhh (yes, I’m slightly hungry right now).

3. Pack black and white.

Keep. It. Simple. Black pair of jeans, black  leather skirt with black tights, black and white striped shirt and cream white cashmere jumper is all I’m packing for this trip. Oh yes, a pair of black ankle boots as well. I know I don’t need anything more, experience has taught me well. Plus I need the extra space in my suitcase for shopping!!! (Duh!!)

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Jean Patchett by Irving Penn, Vogue UK cover, June 1950

4. Get excited for the trip!!!!

A couple of days before departing I check pictures of my destination on Pinterest. And this gets me really excited. The colours, the places, the food, the promise of new sights and people fill my heart with song. Traveling is really the best thing we can with our money, sometimes I think it’s the only thing I work for!!!

Life

How I detox’d after the holidays 

2017 started off with….a lot of food. As should be expected during the Christmas break, even more so from a Greek mom, the turkey was not the only feeling stuffed at the table. Going back home (or on holidays in general) has always been challenging for me, because it’s not really easy to resist my mom’s cooking or other local delicacies. And here we are with 2 kg (or 5 pounds) more and not-so-happy about it…

I’ve always been neither thin nor overweight. I’ve always had this extra 5 kg (or 10 pounds) that prevents me from wearing tight clothes, and have always fantasized about how if I lost 10kg (or 20 pounds) people on the street would mistaken me for Gisele Bündchen. I’m lucky because I’m tall so I can justify a little more eating as I have more space to fill (is this even a real thing?), but then again I can feel bulky and huge the moment I get a couple of kg more.

I’ve only managed to stay on a diet for a few months back in university, when everything is easier in terms of scheduling, social obligations etc. I’ve been using this diet now and again whenever I want to drop a couple of kg/pounds. But that’s about it for me in terms of dieting. The more you enter the adult life though, the more difficult it gets to stick to a program: you have to see your friends — you eat. You have to talk with your boss — you eat. You have to attend a super interesting conference — you eat. You go on a trip — you eat. You visit your family — you eat. You start dating a guy — you eat. That’s how important eating has become for our social life. And don’t get me wrong. I’m all for eating, I love eating, I love good food and I love sharing it with people. But unfortunately, I don’t love equally exercising and burning calories by doing sports. TBH I don’t love it AT ALL. I can’t find even the tiniest piece of motivation that will make me go to they gym, go for a run, play tennis with my friends, do a few laps in the swimming pool. I know that there are millions of people out there rolling their eyes right now (not that I have millions of readers, but if I had, they would be rolling their eyes!!!), but I’ve really tried pretty much everything out there and nothing gets me motivated. The only thing I’ve found I enjoy is walking. And that’s about it.

So coming back from my Christmas break and getting on the scale was really NOT a good idea. I saw a number I could not believe. I was 3 kg heavier than before the break – how was that even possible? I knew it could not be real weight, I knew it was probably the aftermath of a two-week period full of sweets and alcohol, but still – how was this possible??? And I panicked and really felt bad and angry with myself for letting go. And then of course I started nagging to my boyfriend for it (whom I blame the most for my eating habits since he is the perfect cook and we now live together, so…)

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My life’s motto

What I did not expect was such wise words coming out of his mouth. As I was going over all possible ways to feel less bloated, from eating 2 apples per day (and nothing else) to have him force me to the gym so I would actually start exercising a little, he simply said: “Why panic? There’s a very simple way – cut your portions in half and stop eating bread. Just for a while.” And OMG. Like really OMG. It sounded so simple and easy and I was totally on board, I still don’t know why. But let me tell you, it did work.

So I started the next day the very fun (#not) process of cutting my portions in half. The way to go about it? Just use smaller lunch boxes than usual (I bring lunch with me at work most of time, if I’m not traveling) and have dinner in  small plates or bowls. Like really small. Like a step bigger than saucers (just kiddin’)(#not). Other than that, there are no real rules. I had spaghetti bolognese, risotto Milanese, even mousaka, everything I really craved. But I kept it small and simple. I even had a small slice of cake every day right after work to get my blood sugar levels in order (otherwise I could actually eat a small animal on my way to home).

The other thing I managed to do (and I say managed) is stay away from bread. I’m sure everyone of us has this (at least) one thing they can say no to. For me that is bread (and movies by French auteurs). I could give every other food up, as long as I had a Greek salad with feta cheese and LOTS of bread to go with (yes, I’m that cliché). But I know that bread makes me feel bloated in a matter of seconds and I’ve really gotten weary of that. I know that to stay super fit and thin I should ideally say goodbye to bread for ever. But I’m not ready (or willing) to do that. What I manage to do though, stay away for 5 days, made me feel really good. My belly was a bit flatter, my confidence was not flat at all, and I also had the pleasure of saying to myself “yes, you did it”.

And that’s it my friends. 5 days later, 1.6 kg (or 3 pounds) less. It doesn’t mean I suddenly look that much better. But I do feel a thousand times better, I’m back at my normal weight and can stop feeling guilty about all these delicious meals I had during Christmas. And that’s my tip for you: eat what your heart wants, be happy, just do it with moderation. Cut your portions down a bit, or try to have smaller dinners. Play a bit around with your habits, see what works better for your body and your digestion 🙂 And find that one thing you love, but is also makes your body feel weird, and stay away from it. Just for a while. So you can actually go back to it guilty-free just a few days later.

Here’s to a weekend full of friends, fun and good food!!

 

City life · Life

How I plan to make time to see my friends 

    I find friends to be the most important thing in life after family – sometimes even replacing family. Living abroad is hard in many ways, missing my friends first and foremost. 

    After several years in Brussels, I can confidently say that I’ve made friends that make this city #worthlivinit. But between short winter days (seriously, the sun is not up until 9am and it’s already dark at 5pm!!!), the cold and the long working hours I often find myself longing more for Netflix than for my friends. BUT NO MORE! 

    I’m determined to see more of my friends in 2017, it’s probably the one resolution that will make my heart feel calm and happy. Not pottery classes, not singing in a band, not learning how to cook, but FRIENDS. 

    But how do I make time to see them more? I don’t go out much, let alone in this cold weather. So I do need to figure out a plan to stick to and make the most of my free time with my friends. Here we go: 

    1. Make more spontaneous plans: 

    In Brussels people tend to make long-term plans to meet up: let’s meet up the weekend after the next!, I’m organising a dinner in February!, are things people often say. Of course busy work schedules and demanding family responsibilities (i.e. children) take priority (and rightfully so), but this should not stop me from picking up the phone at 6pm whenever I feel like seeing a friend and just call them. Let’s grab a coffee in an hour! There’s a good movie on in a couple of hours, let’s hit the theatre! Come by my place, I’ll cook something quick! It’s that simple — try it 3 times per week, it works wonders.

    2. Plan ahead as well

    As cool as spontaneous plans are, try to also plan head a little. This will help you manage work hours better. Pick a couple of days in the week that seem quiet and put your date with friends firm in your calendar. This way your colleagues will know not to schedule calls on that time (useful for people like me working with the US a lot and thus working many times late in the afternoon) and you will also remember not too take up too many tasks that day. Chances are you will probably need to reschedule at least a couple of times, but at least you have something fun to look forward to besides the weekend!!!!

    3. In case of doubt – dinner and a movie!!! 

    The rules of dating apply very well to friendships too I find. You have to live, respect, and enjoy the person you are going out with. Plus, the best date ever is dinner and a movie! This is an easy choice that gives you the chance to talk, drink, eat, laugh/cry/wonder together with your friends. It can also be for a big group (Rogue One) or a more intimate one (Paterson). 

    This is what we actually did last a couple of days ago, after work with two of my best buddies here in Brussels. We went to see Paterson at the Cinema Galeries in Brussels (what an amazing movie theatre!!) I reeeeeaaaallly liked the movie (I found it so calm and beautiful, and the poems recited were so touching and I’m a huge Jim Jarmusch fan anyways) my friend V. found it so and so, and my other friend V. didn’t like it too much. But we had a super discussion about it afterwards over fish and chips at the great Bia Mara – a great choice for late eaters like ourselves. Cool interior design, amazing music choices (Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Clash!) and of course DELICIOUS FOOD. Not only for fish lovers though, chicken and veggie (like my fish) options are available as well. 

    The amazing veggie cheeseballs!
    My new favourite theatre in town.

    Life

    My 2016

    Every wellness blog that respects itself advises that writing down the things we are thankful for can help be happier. I don’t know if this is true or not, but in this spirit I will do that for 2016, a very weird year that I don’t know if I’m happy it’s over or not….

    2016 was mostly a “waiting year” for me, meaning it felt like I was prepping for something bigger that is going to come in 2017. It might be that I moved in with my boyfriend, which has put me into the natural state of thinking about the future, or the fact that I started getting what my new job is about, which means more enjoyment but also more responsibility for me in the new year!

    I love that I did a few good trips in 2016 (most memorably twice to Rome, my new fav city in the whole world!!!!), but I want to do even more and go even further in 2017. Which prompts me to be a bit more spontaneous when booking stuff – I already booked a weekend in Lille for January and one in London for February (thanks tax authorities for returning these 200 euros, best Xmas gift evahhhhh).

    I’m extremely thankful that I have my health, my friends and family have stayed healthy too, I like my relationship and my day job is interesting enough to keep me exited. This little blog is kind of fun too. I love how people from all over the world take a few seconds every now and then to take a read, look at the picture, even leave a comment. It’s a special connection that makes the whole effort really #worthlivinit!!!! 🙂

    So, all in all, 2016 has been a good year. But I have so much more I’m looking forward to in 2017!!! I have the constant feeling that there is so much more to achieve, to experience, to taste and feel and I want to have it all!!!! I guess this is the healthy approach to the new year, we have to be hopeful that better days are coming! White days for sure 🙂

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    Winter shot from snowy Greece, yes it happens here too!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!! And remember to love, love, love, nothing else matters 🙂

     

     

    Life

    How to avoid spending any money during Black Friday and cyber weekend

    There was a bit of hysteria during these past few days, Black Friday and all. I almost bought a curling iron, a hand mixer, and a pair of black jeans. I was completely smitten of course by the sales (which were not so impressive to be honest…) and the fact that everyone and their auntie were talking about buying stuff because it makes so much sense now that everything is 20% off (again, not so impressive…)

    So I put the aforementioned items in my virtual shopping cart on several different website and was ready to hit “Confirm” until I changed my mind every single time right at the last second. Why? I’m not really sure, but I found myself asking the same questions, either in my head or out loud, before making any of these buys:

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    1. Do I really need this item? 

    I know this sound like the biggest cliche ever, but it’s true that this simple question works almost every time. Do I really need a curling iron? No, my hair is curly already, maybe the trick is to invest into better hair styling products to make my curls more bouncy and shiny. Do I need this pair of black jeans? No, I actually have another pair that’s a bit faded, it’s true, but can hold for a little longer. And I do have another pair of woolen black trousers that I paid too much money for so I need to make as much use out of it as possible!

    2. Do other people (WHOSE OPINION MEANS SOMETHING TO ME) think I need this item?

    Oh my, this is a totally different question! Going back to the curling iron example, I asked my boyfriend while I was thinking about buying it:

    – What do you think about me buying a curling iron?

    – Honey, isn’t your hair already curly?

    – Yeah, but this will help my hair look more structured and “professional”. Have you noticed how the hair of our friend P. looks good with nicely defined curls all the time?

    – Ehmm…no I haven’t.

    – Ok…but would you like me have curls that are more defined and structured?

    – No, I actually like your hair very much, I find it very sexy.

    Case closed. I DO NOT need that curling iron.

    3. Can I spend this money in something that would make me more happy?

    Following the latest trend that we should only keep in our lives what makes us happy – that being furniture, people or habits, I really thought about where I should be spending my few hundred euros on, instead of pants, hand mixers or curling irons. I was surprised to see that I managed to answer this question in a nano-second, which probably was a good sign that I should not be buying stuff that do not make my heart and mind jump at the mere thought of them. I want to spend money on traveling, house decoration (I’ve been after 3 bar stools for the past 9 months), and books. The mere thought of having a perfectly equipped apartment and a bunch of new books at my disposal made me so happy instantly. Much more than anything else I could find on Amazon.

    So I guess what this article teaches us is not really how not to spend, but how to spend in a way that we won’t regret it once the box with our purchase arrives!!!

    Don’t get me wrong though, I am dying to know what you got during the sales!!!

     

     

    Life · Travel

    The importance of getting away of it all

    Ahhh, last couple of weeks have been really tricky, on a personal and a more global level as well… (yes I am talking about the U.S. elections, yes I was surprised that he is the President-elect, yes I would have voted for her if I was American, yes I’m worried about election results in Europe next year, yes I don’t know what the future will bring, everything seems so uncertain right now).

    In times like these, when I feel like I’m challenged like never before, I turn to beauty for some consolation. And beauty is something I find in music, books, films and Paris. I was there for work, just for one evening, and was rushing to the train station to catch my train back to Brussels when I lifted my head and saw this:


    Yes, we will always have Paris. And we will always have beauty to fight off the ugliness of this world. Whether it’s the political situation, the uncertainty of our world, the fear of the unknown, or simply thoughts twirling in your mind making you sad, you can beat it. By choosing beauty. And happiness.

    Life

    The art of doing nothing

    Yesterday was a public holiday in Belgium. November is great like in this little country, as in many other European countries, two days off close to each other (the second one being on November 11) give people the perfect chance for a mid-season getaway.

    The day was the perfect autumn day. The sun shining, not too cold but crisp enough to make one feel the winter that’s coming, golden leaves everywhere, quiet and calm.

    And how did I choose to take advantage of the day. BY DOING NOTHING. Like absolutely nothing. Except of course for eating a lot, cooking a meal, finishing my book (A Room of One’s Own – highly recommended to all women out there!), finishing Narcos AND watching The Bridge on the River Kwai for the first time in my life.

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    Me realizing the day has gone by and all I did was eat.

    Funny thing is I couldn’t wait for this day off. Monday evening I was making all these plans in my head as to how I would have a big breakfast at home, go out early in the morning and take pictures of the amazing nature (yes, we’re lucky enough to have great green spaces in Brussels), do a little picnic in the park with my boy and a book, go visit a museum (I currently have this Picasso exhibition on my radar), then go back home, update my blog, study a bit of French and then finish off with a light dinner and Netflix.

    Instead, I didn’t leave my apartment not even for a second. My boyfriend at least took out the trash, but me? No, no way, on the lovely couch ALL.DAY.LONG. I didn’t even try my usual Sunday evening routine to fight the “OMG this holiday is so short” blues.

    Am I proud of it? Nope. Did I enjoy it? Yessssss. There is a certain guilty pleasure in doing nothing, like eating a lot of ice cream or reading gossip magazines that are full of extravagant lies or doing these two things simultaneously. I very firmly believe that we are more and more in need of some quiet time when we really don’t have to do or even think of anything. Just be. With our loved ones preferably but also on our own. I spend most of my days hooked on my phone, sitting on a desk across my laptop, running from meeting to lunch to meeting to dinner, trying to meet with friends, talk to my parents on Skype, do cultural stuff and go to the gym. On a daily basis. Which at some point starts looking like it’s the impossible deed that everyone is working towards. I’m lucky enough to live in a small city, I cannot even begin to imagine how life is for the New Yorkers or the Londoners out there. So, yes, very proud of not doing anything productive yesterday, just feeding my mind and my body 🙂

    What I ate: We tried two new recipes these past couple of days that really made my head fly off the roof.

    1. Greek version of meatloaf with bacon and eggs: Ok this is seriously the most delicious minced meat version I’ve ever tried in my whole life. Plus it was so much food that we were eating it for 3 days in a row – quite perfect if you ask me for a lazy day off that you don’t even want to think about cooking. Here below a token of this recipe’s amazing quality and here’s the recipe for those who date trying the most perfect meatloaf of all time.

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      Greek-style meatloaf and thank God for food.
    2. Chocolate brownies with tahini – completely vegan btw, which also kind of blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how delicious the result of this recipe was. If you’re lovers of orange and cinnamon like I am (not simply a fan, not even a huge fan, but A LOVER), then please try the recipe this weekend, you’ll thank me every bite of the way.