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 🙂

Travel

Things to do before boarding a plane to the other side of the world

Tomorrow sees the start of a new week and myself on a plane to my adopted city of choice – San Francisco. I’ve ended up having to travel to SF almost twice per year since I got my job in August 2015 with this amazing company that has its HQ there. I had been to the US twice before then, so I did know a thing or two about getting ready for long-haul trips (and waiting time in airports) however I really feel now that I’m starting mastering the art of getting ready -both physically and emotionally- for the huge shock that is translatlantic travel.

Union Square, here I come (again!)

 

So here we go in no particular order, I’m just writing down these things as I’m actually doing them today:

  1. Take your time : My flight is on Monday, so I’ve spent the better part of my weekend doing the things on this list. Taking your time is important when preparing for such a long trip, there is no way getting away with waking up an hour in advance and throwing stuff in your hang luggage hoping you haven’t forgotten everything! Even if you are the most well-prepared person on earth, I would strongly advise packing the night before so in the morning the only thing you have to throw in your carry-on is your toothbrush. Otherwise let me assure you that you will reach your destination sans underwear (no, no, it’s never happened to me).
  2. Make sure all your tickets, visas, check-in’s, etc. are in order: If you require a visa for the country of your destination I’m sure that you’ll have already gone through quite a procedure in order to get it, so I’m not too worried that you’ll forget. However, if you only have ESTA to worry about (like Greeks do for the US), it is pretty easy that you forget that you need it (or that it has expired without you noticing – almost happened to me the last time). The best strategy is to check right after you book your tickets, this way you will have plenty of time to organize yourselves and follow any procedural steps in case your papers are not valid any more.
  3. Do laundry: It’s kind of a super mundane task but to me is equally important is bringing all my chargers and adapters with me!! I spent my Saturday and Sunday doing laundry and ironing because going off to a work trip means that I want to have as much of my “work wardrobe” available to me as possible. There is nothing worse when packing for a week full of work meetings and realising that your go-to white button down has this tomato sauce stain still on!
  4. Think hard of what you need with you on the plane and pack smart: I’m thinking books/magazines, snacks and bottle of water here, as well as a few cosmetics you need with you on the plane. I have to admit I looooove flying long-haul. It’s the only time I really get 10 hours to myself, no email, no phone, no way for anyone to reach you or annoy you. It’s the best time to catch up on reading, and that’s very much what I intend to do in the plane tomorrow 🙂 I am also going to prepare a sandwich with healthy stuff I have at home as well as get my Hidrate Spark bottle with me to make sure that I don’t feel hungry or thirsty at the airport or on the plane. Remember: it will be a long day, you need to treat yourself a little bit!
  5. Download the Netflix app: It often happens to me that I’m traveling in planes without individual screens for every passenger, meaning I have to put up with two hours of StarWars, two hours of the Mupper Show, and another 6 hourse of American reality television. I’ve nothing against these entertainment choices, however the one after the other can drive me to an overdose of boredom and anxiety, that’s why I was so doped when Netflix announced we can now download stuff on our phones and tablets. I still haven’t watched The Get Down and I’m totally planning on doing so at this trip!!
  6. Choose your outfit for the plane: Again, this is something I never leave to the last minute. I’ve made too many mistakes in the past and ended up wearing too tight jeans, too short skirts or extremely uncomfortable shoes for 15 hours. This time I’m going with an oversized pair of jeans, my trusted black sweater and my beloved over sized scarf to keep me warm. Wearing a pair of VANS trainers to keep my shoe game comfortable as well. #win
  7. Have your documents ready: Needless to say you can go nowhere without your passport, so make sure it is the first thing you put in your purse. I also always have with me foreign currency and a public transport card/ticket. I usually keep these items in a separate bag so I can always find them quick and neat.

    Little pink wallet from Narciso Rodriguez, purse from YNot?

So, wish me luck for my big trip tomorrow. And let me know what tips you have for before boarding long-haul flights!!! xx

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

    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.
    Life

    Sunday blues

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

    sad
    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 Ă  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
      IMG_6719[1]
      An amazing sight of the St Catherine church
      IMG_6717[1]
      A great installation / sculpture in the Comte de Flandre metro station
      IMG_6724[1]
      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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!