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 🙂

     

     

    City life · Travel

    Christmas in Athens

    I left Brussels early this year to start my Christmas holidays in Greece (as always-try tell my mom otherwise!)

    Before going to my hometown to spend a few days with my family and my closest friends, I spent a few days in Athens. And I really had the chance to remember why Athens is one of the greatest cities in the world to visit even in the winter, despite the crisis and the difficult times the country is going through. 

    Before leaving to our respective hometowns, the boyfriend and I decided to spend a few days in Athens – a tradition we started last year and I think we will keep up for many more years to come. We started off our first day with a walk in downtown Athens, around Monastiraki Square – one of the most beautiful areas in Athens. If you’re ever there, you should definitely go for a coffee/drink/light snack at the rooftop of A for Athens. This is a great hotel with a lovely rooftop that offers one of the best views in the city. 

    Great view from the rooftop of he A for Athens Hotel at Monastiraki square. Oh the view, oh the Greek sun!!
    We continued our walk towards Petralona to visit the amazing cafe that goes by the name “Kyrios Hou” which in Greek means “Mr Who”. I’ve seen so many pictures of this place online that left me with no choice than paying it a visit. It really is one of the most interesting cafe bars I’ve seen, the inside decoration is A-MA-ZING and the home made lemonade as delicious as it gets. The DJ’s music choices are a very welcome addition to complete the picture of the perfect place to have a drink. 

    Have you ever seen anything cuter than this space? Everything well looked after down to the last detail (hello marble tiles floor!)

    To finish off a great day, what’s better than a cocktail at one of the most lively and colourful covered alleys in Athens. If you now nothing more about this amazing city other than the Parthenon, you should definitely reconsider because Athens’ nightlife is UNPARALLELED!!!! The bars, the energy, the smiles, the pretty crowd is always there, even now, during these very hard times because of the financial crisis. 

    Around the historic center of Athens, we can find many little bars hidden behind old shops or covered alleys – one of them being Rehab. A great bar, with great amazing, and a great range of cocktails. I tried the “thirty one”, because once I see tequila and orange in the same sentence, I’m instantly sold, but I’m sure there is  something for everyone!

    The bar at Rehab is exactly like I would build my ideal bar wall at home 🙂
    I hope you all get to spend these days with people you love, doing things you love, making memories you’ll cherish forever, eating amazing food, taking amazing pictures, laughing, dancing, singing, doing whatever makes your heart feel full. 

    Happy holidays!!

    Food

    Sunday chicken roast

    I believe that in every country there is something people traditionally eat for lunch on Sunday. It’s probably because that is the time of the week that the whole family gets the time to gather around the table, share food, their news from the week, gossip, laughter, and sometimes insults (???!!! no, never ever in my family, no…)

    Where I come from this traditional Sunday lunch dish is roast chicken with oven potatoes. A simple and cheap dish that can feed 4 people easily. It’s still one of my favourites, because you can not really go wrong with it.

    The recipe I will give you today is a very quick one, that gets its extra taste from the spices we are using.

    Here’s all you’ll need:

    • 1 chicken (the size does not matter in this situation…)
    • Potatoes (again, as many as you want, depending on the size of your baking tray. Just make sure that they’re all spread our nice and even, like in the picture below, to avoid any of them being left uncooked). Cut them in whatever form you like, but I usually go for long-ish pieces. The recipe works very well with baby potatoes as well.
    • Spices: This is actually what will take the dish to the next level. Exactly because chicken and potatoes have a pretty basic taste, it’s always good to spice things up (pun intended). What we used for this recipe: salt, freshly grounded pepper, smoked pepper (this is a bit more difficult to find, but I would recommend you get some not just for this recipe but pretty much for every meat dish you prepare. We use this one all the time, it’s of course difficult to find it outside Greece, but it’s really the best sh^&t ever, try to find it and make it happen!), oregano, and some sweet paprika. What you can also do to give your chicken this golden colour, is to rub it with some “chicken mix” spices (these are pretty easy to find).
    • Olive oil (50ml for a 20x30cm baking tray)
    • 250 ml water (again, for a 20x30cm baking tray)
    • 1 clove of garlic
    • 1 tablespoon of mustardimg_0615

    How to cook it:

    • Pre-heat your oven at 180℃.
    • Sprinkle the chicken mix, the smoked pepper, the salt and the freshly grounded pepper all around the whole chicken and rub it well! (slightly pornographic, I know!)img_0589
    • Add the tablespoon of mustard inside the chicken.img_0602
    • Add the garlic clove inside the chicken as well (just put the clove as a whole, no need to smash it beforehand).
    • Add oregano, sweet paprika, salt and freshly grounded pepper on the potatoes.
    • Sprinkle olive oil all over the chicken and the potatoes.
    • Add the water.
    • Place the tray in the oven and let it cook for about 30 minutes at 180℃. After 30 minutes, you should take the tray our, turn the chicken on the other side and also turn all the potatoes to make sure that they are not overcooked on one side.

    I hope you do try it and let me know how it was!!!

    BON APETIT

    (and yes, in case you were wondering, this the boyfriend cooking, hihihi #solucky)

     

    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!!!