Life

My birthday present (and a few thoughts on the art of gifting)

On July 21st we celebrated the Belgian national holiday which was the perfect excuse to take out the gift my boyfriend got me for my birthday:

The VonShef 4 person picnic backpack.

My boyfriend giving me presents is always a very funny process (for me at least). He’s really bad at gifting, he always gets panicked whenever he has to get someone a present, he can never think of what a person would like or want and he ends up scrolling the internet like a madman until a few hours before he needs to get to a party or a birthday celebration.

Of course I think this is lots of fun, because I’m the exact opposite: I’m a great gift giver. And through the years I’ve realised that the way to do so is to PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention people! To what your friends say they’d like, they’d need or they’d enjoy doing but never have the time or the company. And then offer it to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive (that’s what vouchers are made for! you can just buy a part of the product or the experience, ), but you can always put a smile on the faces of your loved ones if you just pay attention to the things they like and then you make an effort to offer them.

And that’s what my boyfriend did, which made his stressed face and hesitance to offer me my gift this year even more adorable. He knows I love picnics, he knows I want to do more of them (not that we can do so many given the Belgian weather, but still, a girl can dream), and he knows that I love doing them with friends….so voila! The perfect gift!

The VonShef backpack is truly amazing. It is so practical and works really well – our bottles of rose and still water remained chilled for more than 3 hours despite the heat, which was something I really appreciated (it’s a huge bummer having to run to the store for fresh wine in the middle of a picnic!). And it really has everything you will need for the picnic (the only additional thing I had to bring with me was a few toothpicks, everything else is already in the bag!!!).

We had such a great time that day and it really felt like a perfect way to celebrate my birthday and my boyfriend for implementing so well the first rule of the art of gifting: pay attention ūüôā

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Life

On birthdays, friends and family

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Today is one of my favourite days of the year. My birthday. Which normally makes me feel sad, but lately I’ve come across a new found sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that make me actually happy to be getting older (to be honest, I would not mind staying in my 30s forever, like in a look, but then again I might be saying the same when I’m in my 40s…)

All in all, life is good. But it’s hard. Not real-problems-hard (this is a category saved for the only issues one really needs to worry about like health or serious financial problems that can impact the wellbeing of one’s family), but I’m-too-stressed-to-think-straight hard. Or stress-makes-me-cry-every-night hard. I was in that place a few weeks back due to a few work-related mishaps that were not really mishaps but I was so stressed they might turn into mishaps that I couldn’t stop thinking about them for almost a month. It was the first time I saw myself like that and I was shocked mostly because I thought I would never be the person who loses their sleep over work. Again, I don’t think anyone should lose their sleep over work. Except for surgeons or lawyers/judges involved in death row/life sentence cases. Because in everyone else’s case, NOONE dies. Noone will get hurt or even fired if I don’t do my job well (except for…me). This is something I had to repeat to myself like a mantra in order to be able to keep things in perspective. In the end, I did my job well and delivered the desired results. But the process left me in shambles.

So, as today I’m getting older (and presumably wiser), I’m looking at what kept me sane during this difficult period (and promise to try to amplify it from now on): it was hands down my friends and family. There is nothing else in this life that will save us from the worst version of ourselves than friends and family. My partner’s support during these difficult weeks was beyond anything I could ever imagine or hope for. ¬†My mom’s tough love made me remember that at the end of the day I’m first and foremost me, not a lawyer, not an employee or a colleague, but me, a human being with needs and sensitivities, a good person who is trying to do their best. And this should be enough to not go crazy over work stuff. I was able to open up my heart to my friends and they filled it with warmth and love and their stories of anxiety for ridiculous reasons or work-related stress that never made them better or more productive.

I’m a very sensitive person and a pessimist by nature. I’m one of these people that think that life before was definitely better than life right now – easier, fuller, more fun. I complain a lot about many different things.I miss a lot of people who are not in my life any more. (Like really miss them. Like feeling a twinge in my chest sometimes when I think about them or see a picture of them. Like this morning. I hate Facebook’s memory lane. It’s the worst.) I tend to linger and get stuck in the past (I’m a caner anyway, what did you expect???).

BUT

I have a great family. I have friends who care for me. My partner is my friend and my family. And I couldn’t be more thankful. I’m looking at this new year in my life starting today and I couldn’t feel more mature and ready to face life and take it as it comes!!!

I hope you all have a great weekend!

Life

How to really enjoy your birthday (even if all you want to do is eat cake and cry)

P.S. The majority of this post was written before the terrible events in Nice took place. I was always proud that my birthday coincided with the French National Day, which stands out among all national holidays for the powerful message it comes with: Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood. These principles need now to be reinforced. With every blow on our bodies we must strike back with a thousand blows of love in their hearts.

Yesterday was¬†my birthday! Yay!!!! Or……nay?

My birthday and I have a complicated relationship. I kind of hate it, but then it turns out to be one of the sweetest days of the year, because every single person I love and cherish takes a few seconds to remember me and send some good vibes my way. Then again, I really hate growing old(er), I’m not one of those people who feel like they really make the best out of every age, rather I’m always feeling left behind, unable to do all the things I would like to do. Time to me is a ruthless enemy, not a trusted companion, not at all!!!

I’ve celebrated 31 birthdays so far, almost 15-16 of them trying to organise some kind of entertainment for my friends. I’ve tried pretty much all formulas: party at a club, party at home, dinner party at a restaurant, dinner party at home, huge groups of people, small groups of people, just with my boyfriend naked in bed, completely on my own watching¬†Miss Congeniality¬†and/or¬†Moonstruck.¬†

There are true merits in every one of those options, except maybe for the alone one, because as I grow older I get more and more insecure about the people around me (it totally works if you’re in the 18-25 box, I can totally see my 18-year old self eating a whole cake on my own in front of the TV).

What I have done though with great success the past four years is an intimate drink/dinner with the 3-4 people in Brussels I can really call “my own”. It’s true that if I was back home I would usually throw larger parties at the beach. Or if my birthday were not in the middle of the summer, I would have more of “my people” in Brussels as well. Or if my friends stopped having babies, THINGS WOULD ALSO BE EASIER (just kidding guys, keep on bringing babies to this world, they’ll be the smartest and most beautiful people of the 2040’s!)

It’s a great relief knowing that there people who I can really call my friends and rely on pretty much for everything pertaining to my survival. I value my true friendships very much. And of course I also enjoy the more superficial ones, the friends I have to have coffee or go shopping with, but for my birthday, I really want my besties with me. And that’s more than enough. That’s why I’ve been having these very small intimate dinner parties the past four years. We’ve really had the chance to enjoy ourselves much better this way, eat a lot, drink a lot, dance and sing more and more than just a lot, and also cry a little at the end (me mostly, I’m a big cryer).

Exactly because I’m a very emotional person, birthdays are kind of a big thing for me. I’d prefer if everyone forgot about it, but then again if I don’t get enough people wishing me on Facebook I get totally depressed “because people forget about me as years go by”. And because I’m so emotional, it is really important for me to not get overwhelmed and try to have fun without any pressure on this special day. Everyone should find what makes them happy on their birthday and go with it. If you can master huge parties, go ahead and do so! Because there’s not better excuse than birthdays and because noone really throws huge glamorous parties any more! If you’re more the “I like cooking for an army” type, throw a huge dinner party with 3 courses and a lot of¬†art de table!¬†Then again, you might enjoy wine, in which case you only need several bottles of the finest wine and lots and lots of cheese, and you’re done!

But whatever you do, make sure to have people you love around you and most of all – relax and have fun. Birthdays are a celebration of ourselves and our lives. Treat them both with love and respect and have lots of fun on the way.

And if you’re looking for the ultimate tip to make any gathering (even the one with just yourself) successful, here it is: PICK A THEME. It is always a guarantee for fum (I’m planning my next dinner party to feature “Woody Allen movie types” as a theme. Precious.)

Here are a few ideas about how we celebrated yesterday:

  • Food: Starting with some¬†spanakopita (i.e. Greek spinach pie) and with chicken roast as a main course, noone complained much.
  • Instead of a typical birthday cake, I shove my one and only candle on a¬†moelleux au chocolat¬†served with vanilla macadamia ice cream on the side.
  • Best present ever: Black leather clutch.
  • REALLY best present ever: Flowers and a very delicate necklace from my boyfriend. I think I’m in love with this guy. Seriously.