Life

Blue Monday (and how to not let it bring you down)

It’s Monday, it’s January, it’s probably cold and wet (unless you’re in Australia in which case what do you even know about this sorry excuse of a day???) and you’re like “why are holidays over?”, “when will I see my family again?”, “how will I get back into exercising and dieting when all I want to do is watch everything on Netflix accompanied by equal amounts of junk food?”, “is it too soon to already ask my boss for my next days off?” (the answer is no to this last one, go for it, definitely NOW!)

They call it Blue Monday, I call it pretty much every Monday, especially those so close to some of the best times I’ve had in ages (see Christmas holiday with family and my closest friends) and then again so far away from any kind of exciting adventure. And on top everything, work, work, work, so much of it that I sometimes can’t think of anything else during the day…

So, what is there to do to get out of this state of mind? (Because at the end of the day it is a state of mind, if you’re healthy and your loves ones are healthy as well and you have a half decent job, most sorrows are not real – they’re just a state of mind).

If you have a large budget: go travel. Book now. A quick city getaway or the vacation of your dreams in Thailand, go and do it. Check dates with the person you want to take with (or not), and go book. NOW. Did you do it? Ok, that’s great.

If you have a small budget: go for dinner and a movie. Sweet and cosy, will really lift your spirits. Also, because on Mondays restaurants and cinemas tend not to be super crowded. What is the movie you should go watch? Good question as in Belgium (at least at the moment), the offer is kind of crappy. Murder on the Orient Express or Molly’s Game might do the trick — they’re good movies AND entertaining as well.

If you have no budget: go Tinder. I actually have never done it (does this make me cool or unreal), but don’t tell me there is no fun checking out strangers online just to see what the offer is out there (and potentially finding someone you know -oops!- or potentially finding someone you don’t know but you kinda of really fancy – double oops).

Whatever you do, have fun. And remember: tomorrow might be another blue day. But it’s closer to Friday 🙂

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

    Why September is the best month of the year

    Today is the first day of fall, September 1st, the beginning of a new school season, a time when goals are being set and strategies rolled out.

    I’ve always loved September, it’s easily my favourite month of the year. It feels more “new” than New Year’s, it feels fresh because it’s not too warm any more, however the weather is still good, we look our best because we’re tanned and with sun-kissed hair, we get back together with our friends we’ve missed during holidays and spend nights sharing stories and chilled wine.

    And most of all, a new season lies ahead of us and we get a clean slate 🙂

    I have so many plans for this new season – learn a new language, refresh my French, take up music again or maybe start dance classes? So many possibilities, so little time!

    And maybe start focusing on this blog a little more…

    What about you? What are your plans starting this new season?

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    Great September view of the Atomium in Brussels.

     

     

    Life

    A perfect way to spend your Saturday afternoon

    Summer is officially in the city and most of my friends are already on holidays… I still have a few weeks to go before I board that plane to Paradise (aka Greece), so I’m totally in the right lazy mood, but really on holidays yet….so….staycation it is!!!!

    We had the perfect lazy afternoon on Saturday, stayed at the balcony with cold drinks just shooting bubbles in the sky…times like these make me feel so young and carefree….

    Life

    Sunday blues

    In my 30 years on this planet I’ve discovered exactly 3, and only 3, ways to fight off Sunday blues.

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    Me on Monday morning (for more Jon Snow on every.day.of.the.week. see here.)

    I have a serious case of Sunday evening blues. I’ve had them for many years, especially since I started working and having a day to day routine that I usually enjoy but more often than not feel trapped in. I’ve tried to do several things to fight this feeling off, but after numerous experiments I’ve come down to the following three:

    1. Movies

    2. Cooking

    3. Rearranging my closet

    Movies

    This is a trick as old as movies themselves. In wintertime I’ll choose the 7-8pm show, in summertime a bit later (I always need to go to the movies during nighttime, don’t ask me why). You call a friend, choose the picture, dress up super casually and then just relax in your seat with a bag of oregano-flavoured crisps in your lap. Hello bliss totally #worthlivinit!! Going for a movie on a Sunday night is perfect to get you out of your home and your pyjamas, connects you with an other human being, offers an interesting topic for conversation, increases your chances of sitting really close to a cute guy AND is alcohol (and hangover) free. What’s better than that?

    My recommendations currently in Belgian cinemas:

    Café Society by Woody Allen

    Le masque de Dimitrios by Jean Negulesco (I love films noires!!!!!)

    Cooking

    This could be the response to the aforementioned question, but it’s much more than that. Cooking is the first form of mediation I managed to really grasp and internalize. Until a couple of years ago I really hated cooking. As  I grew older I started getting this great accomplishment feeling from cooking for friends and loved ones (but still I sucked at it, because I hated it). In the past few months, I really discovered the secret that really helped me improve my cooking skills and also make friends with the whole idea of cooking: CHOPPING IS F&^^&ING RELAXING. Stirring is too. Having to check the food in the oven every half hour or so gives me a feeling of  reassurance. And that’s how being stressed at work really helped me with getting better at cooking. Here are the two recipes I made last Sunday evening – both super easy, feeling and worth my time and zen:

    Mediterranean Pasta Salad 

    Spinach, Sun-dried tomato and Goat cheese stuffed sweet potatoes

    Rearranging my closet

    If I could live in a state of constant spring cleaning, I would! That’s how much I love moving my clothes around. I also love packing, I could spend a couple of hours packing every day just for the sake of being able to move clothes around. It took me some time, but I have now discovered the reason behind my fixation with this: I LOVE LOOKING AT MY CLOTHES. Limited closet space (or excessive amounts of clothing, it really depends on how you see it), has led me to stuffing things at the back of my closet which results in me never seeing them for months. So, whenever I feel sad and a little blue, I take out all my clothes and start building my closet a-new. (How’s that for amazing rhyming?) I’ve also found mediation powers in folding, although I’m still to perfect my method because I’m still folding like a 5-year old (that’s right, just make all my shirts look like hedgehogs sitting on my shelved). But I now have the right person to teach me that as well- my manfriend who could really give seminars on how to fold clothes. If it really makes sense I’m going to make a video out of it as well!!!!

    HAVE A GREAT WEEK YOU AMAZING PEOPLE.

    City life

    Green power 

    Ahhh Spring is the best time of the year…it’s the change from cold to warm, from dark to bright, from in to out. 

    We have this amazing thing in Brussels that I hadn’t seen in any of the other cities I’ve lived in: amazing backyards even in the middle of the city centre. I live very close to Place Flagey, which for Brussels connoisseurs, is like one of the most central areas, full of concrete and with no trace of green.

    Yet, this is what I see from my balcony every morning….it’s the image that makes me calm down, keep away any bad thoughts or stress I have for the day ahead, kind of my own meditation app right outside my window. 

    I love having my coffee here in the morning, this morning actually for the first time with my summer night dress!!! I know it won’t last, but oh Brussels your good weather makes you so much more #worthlivinit.

    Life

    Small talk

    It’s not a coincidence that weather is an acceptable form of small talk pretty much everywhere around this planet of ours. The reason is simple: people are happy when the weather is good and unhappy when it’s not. Sunshine and everything that brings with is totally #worthlivinit material.

    The problem is that this year, the sun didn’t show. We were stood up. We had an appointment as usual around April, but the sun never came. Never told us why, never alerted us to the fact that we should have piled up jumpers during winter sales.

    And we, Brussels people, were left wondering: Is it gonna get warmer any time soon?

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    First answer that comes in mind: NO
    As a matter of fact, weather has recently moved beyond being good small talk for my daily course of business (I’m required to do much of that, so it’s usually weather, Game of Thrones or Donald Trump’s latest blurb). Weather has started to actually influence my mood, like SERIOUSLY. I’m mostly feeling numb, without any motivation to work or party, I feel like it’s never gonna get warm, I don’t have the energy to put on make up or dress up just because I have to wear a ridiculously big coat although we’re almost in May.

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    View from my balcony: gross 
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    View from my office: more gross
    There are good things about rain and cold weather (hot chocolate, Netflix binge watching, a working fireplace, the softest blanket in the world etc.) However, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I’m in serious need of some vitamin D. I need to stop complaining and get my s*^^$%t together and go visit a sunny country for a long weekend. Find a good friend or do it on my own. Persuade the boy that he needs to work a bit less and come with me to the sun. It’s necessary. And I need to do it sooner than later. Because that’s how Aliki will get her mojo back.

    Any suggestions? 🙂

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    Another good thing about the rain: walking umbrellas 🙂