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

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.
Food

Mediterranean gnocchi recipe

When the weather gets warm (and thank God it has – yes, summer is officially in Belgium people!), my cooking choices always revert to the Mediterranean diet – simple stuff, almost no meat, lots of olive oil and herbs.

I tried a new recipe with gnocchi the other day that I really enjoyed making and eating so I thought toshare it here with you. I actuallycamepup with it right on the spot, as I had a few vegetables in my fridge that I need to consumer before I leave Brussels this weekend (I’ll be gone for three weeks and every time I have to travel for such a long time there is always a cleaning the fridge procedure going on, I hate throwing food away!!!)

So this is really easy peasy and here’s what you need to have to make it happen (serves 2):

A 500 gr pack of gnocchi

Two tbsp of olive oil

1 aubergine (chopped in cubes)

1 zucchini (chopped in cubes)

A handful of porcini mushrooms (sliced not too thinly)

Half an onion (thinly sliced)

4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes (each cut in 4 big cubes)

1 tbsp concentrated tomato sauce

3/4 cup water

Herbs according to preference (I used oregano and dried basil for this one)

Salt & pepper to taste

A pinch of sweet paprika

A few capers

A few kalamata olive oils to taste

1 garlic clove (unless you cook this to take to work for lunch the next day or to serve on a first date, in which cases skip the garlic)

 

How to make it:

We warm up the oil in a normal pan, adding the onion once the oil is hot and cooking it until soft and slightly brown.

Add the vegetables and cook for a few more minutes, until everything in the pan has a nice golden touch because of the olive oil.

(Note: I usually cook in low temperatures to make sure I can control the process. On a scale from 1-9 I would cook the vegetables on 6).

Lower the heat (in my case, I would take it down to 4) and add the tomatoes, the salt, the pepper and the herbs. Add the tomato sauce and the water. Stir well so everything comes together nicely and let cook for about 15-20 minutes.

Cook the gnocchi (follow the advice on the packaging, it always works well with pasta).

Dry the gnocchi and add in the sauce for a final spin.

Serve warm or not so warm, with or without cheese, with or without a glass of chilled wine. So easy like summer should be 😉

 

 

 

Life

4 tips to happiness when moving in with your partner 

As you might remember, a few weeks ago my partner and I decided to take the big step and move in together. We’ve now reached our first month as roommates, which I think it’s a bigger milestone than our actual anniversary!!! This is the first time that any of us are living with a significant other, which kind of was a terrifying thought at the beginning as it felt like two blind people trying to drive a car….But it has worked out (at least so far!) and there are some great lessons I learnt in the meantime. So here’s what living with a boy over the past 30 days taught me:

1. Privacy is important, more so in a long term relationship: so invest in a spare room, be it a study, an extra bedroom or a smaller living room. It is a great relief to know i have my own space when I want to read, talk to my mom on Skype or watch another rerun of Sex and the City without him rolling his eyes.

2. Discover what you like to do together in the house and do lots of it!: many people like board games. Others watch movies, attend to their garden or enjoy washing the dishes (in the movies at least..!) What we do is playing music, watching movies but also, more than anything else, cooking. Big time. My man loooooves cooking and spending time with him in the kitchen has actually also improved my skills a lot. Although I’m not as good as him, I always try to give him a hand and this makes the whole process much more fun. Here are a few recipes that require 4 hands (or more):

 

Pancakes

 

Bacon, pepper and mozarella pizza

 

Gemista (i.e. stuffed vegetables with rice) – I use tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, but you can also use zucchinis.

3. Keep the mystery alive: He doesn’t know how I wax the hair off my bikini line. I don’t know how he trims his nose either. This is something I feel very strongly about: there’s no need for a couple that has just started sharing a life and a living space to start acting like they’ve been married for 40 years. My partner is still my lover and I won’t sacrifice a bit of that by leaving the door of the toilet open, asking him to help me wax or postponing taking a shower until I actually have to leave the house. (But because nobody’s perfect, I have to admit I tend to shave my legs a little less often than if I was just going on dates…)

 

4. Try a bit harder (but just a little bit): I’m one of those people who tend to nag easily. If I don’t get things the way I want them, I might turn into this deeply unhappy creature causing strife to anyone around her. I consider myself a relationship person, but then again, I feel compromise doesn’t come easy to me. But exactly because I love this guy so much, and he loves me back, I’ve decided to try a little bit harder. To think twice before nagging. To try to make it work with less or with different material. To get used to his way of doing things while showing him what mine is. It’s like tango. Steps might be going back or forward, but it certainly takes two to dance it.

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

The recipe for a perfect weekend

It’s Friday today, and hopefully you’ll have the chance to get off work a bit earlier than usual, grab a glass of wine with a friend in the sun and plan a thing or two for the weekend ahead.

I often get this feeling on Friday evenings that all I really want to do is stay in for two full days, watch those movies I’ve been obsessing over on Netflix and spend the rest of the weekend cooking and reading The New Yorker.

This is a perfectly legit weekend, with only one minor problem: Monday comes and I feel like I didn’t do anything at all. I don’t feel like I enjoyed myself, I don’t feel like I’m ready to go back to work.

On another scenario (this one hardly ever happens any more…), I go out on a Friday evening for dinner and drinks. Saturday late morning I’m out shopping and then meeting with friends for coffee. There is a party in the evening, where I drink a bit more than I can handle. As a result I’m up around 7am on Sunday morning (yep, THIS is what happens to me when I drink a bit more than I can handle…) with a huge headache and make plans to go to a museum around lunchtime to fight off my hangover. In the evening, I go to the movies to avoid Sunday blues. What happens in this scenario is that I don’t feel rested at all, but am perfectly happy having experienced a pretty full weekend.

(These two scenarios of course materialise when you stay in Brussels. You can always get a plane to Rome for a weekend à l’italienne).

And the question is: when does rest come on top of creating new memories? (That’s how I like to think about partying hard, as creating new memories ;-))

This is kind of a rhetorical question, meaning I’ll leave the “obvious” response to you….

To avoid the conundrum of “what to do this weekend”, I’ve summed up a pretty rad list for you for me for this weekend:

  1. Go visit a neighbourhood in Brussels I’ve never been to. Last Saturday my boy and I decided to take a small city trip to downtown Brussels. Now, Brussels is a fairly small city compared to London, Paris or Madrid, but this only makes us more lazy as everything that requires spending more than 10 minutes in the metro qualifies as a trip to the other end of the world. However, the boy and I were brave last Saturday to go to Yser for some Greek grocery shopping and I was very happy to find the below:
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    A clear blue sky with hints from the 70’s
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    An amazing sight of the St Catherine church
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    A great installation / sculpture in the Comte de Flandre metro station
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    Greek mini cheese pies!!!
  2. Begin MoMA’s free online photography course – I’m really excited about this one and I’ll come back to you with full
  3. Experiment in the kitchen. My plan for this w/e is to make the PERFECT quacamole.
  4. Plan your next trip to Paris (these will be 2 full hours completely wastes on Pinterest, looking at ridiculously beautiful pictures of the Eiffel Tower, Brigitte Bardot and breton shirts by Petit Bateau, as there are completely no plans whatsoever at this moment for me going to Paris any time soon…)
  5. Finish watching Harold and Maude – I love how quirky this movie is, starting watching it last night (but fell asleep), I think it’ll be the best way to fight off Sunday evening blues. If not, I think  I ought to catch The Revenant in the theatre – Leonardo, the Oscar etc. etc.
  6. Pick up the phone and call the friend you haven’t seen in the longest time.

 

Note to self: try to do more stuff that involve culture one way or the other.

Note to self nr. 2: all this planning will go out of the window the moment I hit “play” on House of Cards – Season 4. It’s heeeeeeerreeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Life · Travel

Saving

In March, I’m going to save money. Like big time saving! And I’m now looking how to achieve this.

A few months ago I started implementing this strategy whereby I save a big chunk of money AT THE BEGINNING of each month. Which makes for a good plan and for months to look like they are going by waaaaaayyyyy slower than before (I’m actually broke by the 25th, and I’m checking my account balance every hour in hopes of some surprise transfer suddenly made to me while at the same time looking at my saved amount singing “you can’t touch this”).

 

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Me looking at my bank account on the 25th day of every.single.month.

So, I have the means (deducting money right at the beginning of the month), but I was completely lacking the motivation. Why would I need to save money? I’m still 30 (yeah, yeah, 30 is super young, don’t you know that already?), I’ve no family obligations, no intention of buying a house or a car, and I’m not spending THAT much anyway. I struggled with this question for a little while, and I still am sometimes – why would I stress myself at the end of every month? The amount I decided to save was totally arbitrarily set by me for me and noone really pushed me for that. I shouldn’t feel I’m failing if at the end of every month I need to take a couple of hundred euros out of my savings (assuming I’ve saved more than a couple of hundred euros…)

And I actually came to this conclusion: I save to be able to do crazy things whenever I feel like it. Book a trip to Mexico. Buy a Chanel bag. Surprise your boyfriend with a weekend away. Take you mum to her favourite restaurant.

Coming from a financially challenged country (to say the least) as I do (I’m Greek 🙂 ), you could also add “potentially save your family from total disaster – but hopefully nobody will have to do that and we can also spend our money on chocolate.

I have a few advantages for saving money right at the beginning of the month:

  1. After paying your rent, bills and usual debts, you think you know know exactly how much money you have left until the end of the month.
  2. Which helps really planning your activities and eliminate stress. You can better manage your budget and buy your tickets to concerts, plan your dinners out with friends, buy a book or two and renew your perfume that is close to running out. Also keep a little on the side to donate if possible.
  3. Saving and budgeting has actually also helped me think of more fun stuff to do (in a weird way…I really don’t know how this has worked). If I find 30 euros  that don’t really need to be attributed to anything, I can consider spending them on this 1-day seminar on mindfulness or buy a knitting kit and spend my Saturday on YouTube rocking at knitting that scarf.
  4. With whatever money you have left at the end of the month, you can buy yourself/a loved one a little something (even if you can only afford 3 pairs of parrot socks from Primark). Or donate again – even better!

So, there you have it! All-grown-up me saving like a pro. Hopefully, this will turn into a good habit that I can continue mastering during more stressful periods of my life – e.g. children coming along, planning a wedding, taking a loan, losing my job or booking last minute tickets to Hawaii. Because money can’t make you happy, but the things you can do with money certainly can #thewisestthingyouveheardalldayImsure

Below I have a small selection of the things I wouldn’t mind spending my savings on – let me know yours 🙂

Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta).
Take cooking classes (here featuring a Greek dish of roasted beef with tomato sauce and pasta that my boyfriend prepared a few weeks ago – perfect for a winter day!).
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Fly to Milan to see Muse on their Drones World Tour.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Score a pair of Chanel ballet flats on Vestiaire Collective.
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there - I seriously have to go back at least once)
Impromptu trip to Tulum (picture from my previous trip there – I seriously have to go back at least once)