health and food

Perfume: to use or not to use – finding a balance between a chemical and a personality

When harmful chemicals surround us, reducing their impact on our health becomes a critical task. Recently, many holistic centers, fitness studios and workplaces force people to avoid using fragrances. Such strict rules have an impact on people who love wearing perfumes. Here I discuss, shall we fall into “no perfume no chemical ”  policy and how to draw a healthy line in order to achieve a harmony. 

 

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Few weeks ago I walked into a recently cleaned public bathroom, and a lady who was cleaning was still there. The bathroom smelled so good so I made a comment and expressed my sincere thanks to her. She smiled and told me that another lady who just left the bathroom just complained about suffocating smell. Since that day, this bathroom never smelled perfume. Right, we need to reduce chemicals. I happened to know the lady who left the bathroom just before me. I see her having soda and spraying a sunscreen ( healthy advise) with oxibenzone! Seriously?! A chemical that goes into the bloodstream and acts on estrogen receptor can be used while the bath perfume not?! I understand that a small fraction of people can develop allergies against certain perfumes. I also understand that a strong smell can be annoying but at the same time, leaving the house without a perfumes sets a different mood.

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In fact, some people feel naked without their little cloud of comforting aroma. This is a part of their individuality. Certain perfumes might have strong psychological associations. I have one perfume that I always use during my presentations as it comforts me and helps me to set up the right tone of my talk. The secretary who uses aroma feels pretty and therefore is in a good mood ( comfort zone). So why to prevent her from having this?  Let her have this expression of her personality and be happy at work! Sure, I advocate for a delicate smell and not for “everyone dies – I am on my way” usage of perfume. At the end, this is a delicate procedure or a ritual,  to spray eau de toilette and walk into this cloud or to use tiny drops of concentrated perfume on the pulse zones.  The use of perfume should be a respectful act but also lets be more tolerating towards individuals. Let them have their personal aromatherapy! This will definitely make our life healthier!

 

A Perfect Dinner Out: do`s and don’t`s

Here I discuss the idea of how to ensure joyful evening with friends. At first, one would argue that with real friends we do not have to make any plans. And this is true too. But when we MAKE plans, we want to have fun. Isn’t this a real life skill? I also touch up on circles of people that surround us. 

Photos: chef and  the owner of Nuovo restaurant in Worcester Alexander, mascarpone figs, an espresso with biscotti liquor. 

Taking time to meet our friends often requires significant planning. The older we get, the more carefully we choose with whom to spend our free time. Especially since there is no such a thing as “free time”. Not because all of us are workaholics or “tiger moms” (some are, though).  Simply because when a person is self sufficient, the feeling of being bored comes from doing something one doesn’t like and not from being alone. In this regard, anytime that we spend with someone is actually “making the time” to spend with this person. Whether it is a conversation over a phone or a dinner together ( drinking with friends on Skype counts too:). How to make sure that those few hours that everyone “made”  are spent together joyfully and leave a good “aftertaste’?  The real zen comes here and not during yoga class. Really, calling drinking parties a zen? Unless the life is not restricted by yoga sessions, yes. Being present, involved and content not only during guided by a certified instructor meditation is an important skill. Being able to set the mood and enjoy life is one of the mindfulness skills to learn .

Right, lets go out for dinner! Having gone to many dinners with friends in the past, I noticed that some of them are fun and joy, while others ..hmm minimum waste of our time. What makes this difference? People first. Agree. Years after years I am trying to eliminate toxic people from my life and plant the people I like. Just like gardening, these relationships need attention and care. And yet, I have few relationships I am not happy with. The reasons vary, but I do minimize the interaction.  But then , there are people who are not my friends, but whom I know as nice people. We do not necessarily share same values and that is ok too. And there are friends, close and not so much, but friends.  In any case,  people are people. So when we go out, I make sure, I do not have strong opinions but rather choices and options. I also pick the place to meet, where people can be late but the rest is not annoyed (restaurant with a bar works well or a nail/hair salon before dinner). If we are out as a small group, I would prefer rather a small cozy place where we can chat, instead of a loud or crowded place. We need to relax, so I also found that fancy restaurants can be intimidating and often snobbish, and this does not really make them a great environment for long conversations ( going to club is different, it is crowded but you are not stuck). On the other hand, small bars, cafe and local restaurants are all great options. I literally hate “family” restaurants. Perhaps there is a good one out there that I never visited. Huge pig-size portions of bad quality food to share..Really? When tight with budget, cafe is my choice.

Once clear on place, the mood is the key. What, you never had a long whining conversation with best friend? :)) Unless this is a “rescue someone” dinner, the mood is the key. I am not good at cracking the joke, but discussing work the whole evening is boring (again, there are exceptions to that – rare ones, when a person is very excited about something). Even after a hard day, on the way to dinner I say myself, this is going to be relaxing! Nice people, good food and drinks – paradise on earth. It is usually enough to set the pace:)

The food. I think, the best thing about eating together is the break. The time between meals to chat, drink and simply to feel the moment are vital. Hungry fast eater (like me) will finish all in 20 min and will feel guilty of overeating…  so take  time for everything! For food and for friends!

Enjoy your life and your friends!

P.S. All above pictures were made in Nuovo restaurant in Worcester, MA. A mix of Italian and Albanian food, artfully presented ( just loved those mascarpone figs!). We had a great time there and got to meet charming and professional chef Alexander.

A Perfect Dinner Out: do`s and don’t`s

Here I discuss the idea of how to ensure joyful evening with friends. At first, one would argue that with real friends we do not have to make any plans. And this is true too. But when we MAKE plans, we want to have fun. Isn’t this a real life skill? I also touch up on circles of people that surround us. 

Photos: chef and  the owner of Nuovo restaurant in Worcester Alexander, mascarpone figs, an espresso with biscotti liquor. 

Taking time to meet our friends often requires significant planning. The older we get, the more carefully we choose with whom to spend our free time. Especially since there is no such a thing as “free time”. Not because all of us are workaholics or “tiger moms” (some are, though).  Simply because when a person is self sufficient, the feeling of being bored comes from doing something one doesn’t like and not from being alone. In this regard, anytime that we spend with someone is actually “making the time” to spend with this person. Whether it is a conversation over a phone or a dinner together ( drinking with friends on Skype counts too:). How to make sure that those few hours that everyone “made”  are spent together joyfully and leave a good “aftertaste’?  The real zen comes here and not during yoga class. Really, calling drinking parties a zen? Unless the life is not restricted by yoga sessions, yes. Being present, involved and content not only during guided by a certified instructor meditation is an important skill. Being able to set the mood and enjoy life is one of the mindfulness skills to learn .

Right, lets go out for dinner! Having gone to many dinners with friends in the past, I noticed that some of them are fun and joy, while others ..hmm minimum waste of our time. What makes this difference? People first. Agree. Years after years I am trying to eliminate toxic people from my life and plant the people I like. Just like gardening, these relationships need attention and care. And yet, I have few relationships I am not happy with. The reasons vary, but I do minimize the interaction.  But then , there are people who are not my friends, but whom I know as nice people. We do not necessarily share same values and that is ok too. And there are friends, close and not so much, but friends.  In any case,  people are people. So when we go out, I make sure, I do not have strong opinions but rather choices and options. I also pick the place to meet, where people can be late but the rest is not annoyed (restaurant with a bar works well or a nail/hair salon before dinner). If we are out as a small group, I would prefer rather a small cozy place where we can chat, instead of a loud or crowded place. We need to relax, so I also found that fancy restaurants can be intimidating and often snobbish, and this does not really make them a great environment for long conversations ( going to club is different, it is crowded but you are not stuck). On the other hand, small bars, cafe and local restaurants are all great options. I literally hate “family” restaurants. Perhaps there is a good one out there that I never visited. Huge pig-size portions of bad quality food to share..Really? When tight with budget, cafe is my choice.

Once clear on place, the mood is the key. What, you never had a long whining conversation with best friend? :)) Unless this is a “rescue someone” dinner, the mood is the key. I am not good at cracking the joke, but discussing work the whole evening is boring (again, there are exceptions to that – rare ones, when a person is very excited about something). Even after a hard day, on the way to dinner I say myself, this is going to be relaxing! Nice people, good food and drinks – paradise on earth. It is usually enough to set the pace:)

The food. I think, the best thing about eating together is the break. The time between meals to chat, drink and simply to feel the moment are vital. Hungry fast eater (like me) will finish all in 20 min and will feel guilty of overeating…  so take  time for everything! For food and for friends!

Enjoy your life and your friends!

P.S. All above pictures were made in Nuovo restaurant in Worcester, MA. A mix of Italian and Albanian food, artfully presented ( just loved those mascarpone figs!). We had a great time there and got to meet charming and professional chef Alexander.

Seeing things pretty: a Zen skill and a social media

The idea of blogging came as an attempt to balance the load of everyday life and to compensate the of living my day as a “checklist”. As a consequence, for a couple of months, I begin taking pictures that reflect little details of my daily life. What I noticed is that I start to look at world around me in a different way. For example, having my cup of coffee became more of a ritual, but also appeared in front of my eyes as a chain of “snapshots” of pretty pictures.

As a person, who used to oppose the idea of social media (except for professional) as an unnecessary substitution for friendship and a waste of time, I now have to admit that my new account on Instagram is full of snapshots that I enjoy every day.  From this I beging to conclude that “forced” ( as I am interested in taking a picture) search for a great frame is more than just a photo – it helps me to develop a forgotten skill to observe what surrounds me. The “checklist ” became secondary to my realization of “the moment” and this is one of ideas that I hope to incorporate into my life.

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The photo above is a snapshot that I took at my work while working on laptop and glancing out of the window. I saw the same view many times, often noticing the construction. However only recently I saw the beauty of the plant that flowers more than a month! Isn’t this a Zen way of living? If yes, the role of social media in this transformation is a very curious phenomenon.

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Happy New Year and how exactly to make it happy

Happy New Year! There is an old saying: ” How you will meet New Year, same way you will live it!”. Nice. Thank you . It just set up the new pressure to celebrate the New Year the best way you can to have the best out of it. And the pressure of success is ruling the life… the rush to be perfect and to have a perfect setting and perfect company and perfect, picture-worth-many-likes fun. Did I miss something? Oh, yeah, the happiness. That mysterious state of mind that we chase by our attempts to be perfect. But the trick is that they do not always go together. What to do? Below is the answer.

Just remember the times you felt extremely happy. Have your cup-glass of whatever, take a deep breath to let your body feel that you live and remember your happy times. ( often people who experienced lots of sad moments remember them first. I recently experienced a loss, so as my friend suggested to me, I remember and embrace my loss as a light memory, as a good memory). After those sad or upsetting things are passed ( just little pieces of emotions, do not stop with them ), remember the happy moment. And, yes, those are moments. One is enough. This is not about the actual event – this is about your emotion. Choose the one you d like – an excited or a calm one.

No matter where you celebrate you New Year, without getting too philosophical or perfect ( to my experience, both are slippery roads to lose  the momentum of happiness:)) prepare whatever you wanted and stop thinking ( what to wear, what to buy, whom to invite) – just stay content and calm and smile. Do not hurry. For my New Year celebration, there are few disturbing things that are stirring the mood: out of a large group of people who decided to book a nice house, two parties dropped the ball  after the place was already booked, leaving us to deal with high cost. Training camp, my husband getting sick,  and last minute shopping ( and oh, year mani-pedi and what to wear:) – some parts I just ignore ( well, I am not going to make any plans with these people for vacations, but hey, people are people – this is a natural fact – everyone has multiple sides and circumstances). I did shopping list with our french friends- and spend 1hr of my life to buy all stuff, one hour for mani-pedi, and 20 min to answer what to wear. No stress, little time. Tea with lemon and honey for my husband ( plus warm hugs). 1 hour to pack my family , while they are on mountain. Now I called my mom, and having my cup of whatever :))

After you ve done with preparations and enjoyed them ( aha, the preparations for New Year). I mentioned to stay calm, but you ll be surprised, that maybe you are one of those people who loves to be in a hurry before celebration ( “I am here and there and everywhere”). This can be fun too! When the celebration comes, focus on warm hugs ( ha ha remember that kid`s movie character Olaf?), smiles and take that happy feeling that you prepared before into your celebration.

Wishing you lots of fun and  happy moments in a New Year!

Ski areas for non-skiers: ski and apres ski, why we should go and what we should wear

Skiers around the world are getting excited when the weather is getting colder: they smell snow and ski. Other normal and adequate adults tend to spend a bit less time outdoors. Even avid runners, when the temperature strikes minus in Fahrenheit, prefer to take a day off. This year I cannot ski, so spending some time in the ski area as a non-skier led me to several points:

First, it is a great way to enjoy winter because in the ski area cold feels differently than in the office setting, so grab your coffee and go for a walk.

Second, this keeps your kids healthy and happy as this is one of very few reasons to get them out of house and iPads in a cold weather – they have fun, they get stronger and also they eat and sleep better.

Third, the sun exposure and its reflection by snow boosts the mood for days and weeks after. Isn’t this the best way to deal with season depression that many people experience?

Forth, this is a great opportunity to hang with friends and to meet new people. Even if I am alone spending hours while waiting for my daughter, I meet people and chat.

Fifth, après ski is something to enjoy and the fact that you spend so much time outdoors qualifies your body for this pleasure.

What to wear? Dress up in layers. Ski jackets and snow pants work great but I also like sheer coat with ski pants and turtleneck or thick sweaters. Fun hats are always fun. Remember to take sunglasses  – it can be a lot of sun.

Live your life full even in winter. Happy New Year!

 

Good bye to my grandma: a quick story of 103.5 year old lady

Can it be quick? A more than a century-long life story? Now looking back, I would say, yes… it looks like her long life was a quick shot. Now it is a quintessence of her role in my life and stories about her. Little clouds of memories that are still too immature to make a  connected story.

My grandma, Elena Pavlovna Grekova, was second to last out of six kids. My grand grandpa, Pavel, was a poor aristocrat who married my grand grandma after she separated from her first husband. The first husband was a gambler and intended to sell my grand grandma  to Eastern countries  in order to pay his debts but the captain of the ship on which they were sailing,  saved her.

With my grand grandpa,  they already  had four daughters, and wished for a son, when my grandma was born. It was a big disappointment for them, and for sometime they even called her with boys name. Later the last child, their son was born. The quiet family life was destroyed by a train accident and a tragic death of Pavel. There was no income and no food. Grand grandma had to clean the floor and work at the factory, but that was still not enough for living. My grandma was taken by another family: at least there was some food. I am not exactly sure why, but later she was returned back to her mother and at age of 6 she had to buy food for the whole entire household. With almost no money, she learned how to be very practical and this quality of character she carries through her all life.

Once she grows a little more, she moves to Sant – Petersburg, where during her college years, she meets my grandpa who also happen to study engineering. She later teaches engineering in military school. My grandma had two kids, the son and my mom. My mom was the youngest in the family.

First I remember my grandma in her apartment. Super clean, with food always cooked ( she was an excellent cook), there is always something she would discuss with me. Till the very end she loved learning something new and reading books. Because of her strong personality, we had had hard times, but as a little girl, I always liked being around her. Especially I remember her summerhouse, where she grew the best garden in the whole neighborhood! Everyone would like to see her flowers, fruit trees, and veggies. She had an amazing ability to combine plants in a small area and to keep them happy. I remember, she loved to talk to them. She would talk to greens like cilantro and parsley, perhaps, expressing her love that she never received in her childhood…. This was the first thing she did every time she arrives to  summerhouse: check the garden and talk to her plants.

Endless conversations that I remember, and her ability to take care and heal some wounds were almost addictive. Many proverbs that she used to say still pop up in my head.  If I will have to pick the most important things that she taught me, those will be: self respect, self sufficiency, motivation for development, love for esthetic things that can make your home cozy at any budget and circumstances. I take a good care of those beautiful pillows that she made for me and later for my daughter, her grand granddaughter. The same pillow was first made for my mom…  My grandma was an artist, a stylist and a designer – all in one and in extreme conditions. Remembering few years ago, I came to visit her. I wore ripped jeans. Very stylish, I thought.

She took her glasses, looked at me and said: ” What are you wearing? Do you really think, this is pretty?”.

” Well, I am a student, and lots of time goes to study. And money are tight too, “- I said.

“After a second world war, we had no food, and no money and no shops, but I still went out with your grandpa in white silk dress. How now you tell me that you cannot take care of yourself?, – was her answer. I could not argue. It affected my life a lot. Now when anyone tells me that there is no time for taking care, I remember her words. Her style rules to dress up were: iron and clean clothes ( iron at her times was custom steel that only professional weight lifter can lift); basic wardrobe high quality items and tailored dresses. She made lots of clothes herself or asked a friend, who was a tailor. Once she was awake, she dressed up in house dress.

Her secrets to a long and healthy life? Not sure, it fits everyone.. The main rule, though, does: everything is in moderation. Food, activities, rest, stress, happiness, celebrations. She also had her daily schedule. She read and traveled a lot. Every summer they would spend a month in the car, often traveling as a group of few families. My grandma used to cook a lot and to grow her own food or to buy a good quality food. She was very practical, but never on cost of quality. She went through self-motivation for an education to building the family and raising kids, to spirituality later in life. Now I think, her spiritual development began even earlier than she ever admitted, when in her 50s she learned how to collect healing herbs and to use them. She avoided doctors as much as possible. Forget about checkups… no doctors for decades. For a few decades. If she was tired, she would take a rest. In fact, rest was a part of her daily routine. She would lay down quietly for an hour, listening to herself.  In her life, she relied on herself only. She did lots of things and was proud of herself, but she was never a workhorse. This is a big difference between her lifestyle and the idea of working 24/7 for a career growth.

Our last meeting was less than two years ago. I took time off to fly and to meet her for several days. Although deep inside, I knew, that was a goodbye, I still do not believe that during past year, I found time to attend her funeral but not the time to see her alive. Really, what is more important? I felt like I was overwhelmed and super busy… well, I made a wrong choice.

During our meeting, she was holding my hand and smiled, while remembering times we were together. That was the time, she gave me her bag. The bag she used to go for dates with my grand pa ( even they were married, they would go out and travel a lot). This is the bag that I go out with my husband now. The personal vintage item that is much more than a style statement.

Goodbye, Grandma! The world is different without you….

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