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.

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!

To travel or not to travel: full guide to enjoy holiday season

Holidays are around the corner, so what is the best way to celebrate New Year? Our memories are fed by our emotions and for those who cares to overwrite negative impact of past year, fun and joy of season celebration will set up the stage for a New Year. For some reason, this turns into crazy times when it is absolutely critical to do everything and even more: presents, impressive menu for the table and invites for guests. Do we always enjoy spending nights surfing online sales to get more presents? How to make these precious days memorable and enjoyable? Here are few simple steps that anyone can do to remember their transition into 2018 year.

  1. Get cold. New Year, Hanukkah and Christmas – although not historically – means snow! Enjoy it! Even in warm countries it is possible to find a skating rink or ice sculptures. In naturally cold places, make a snowman, watch some winter sports competitions, go for ski with friends, family or yourself.
  2. After you spend some time near cold snow – what can be better than a hot drink and fire? Spend evenings near fireplace with family playing games. If you do not have fireplace at home – or in nearby cafe – light up candles and sit near Christmas tree. This is the best time for board games and tales.
  3. Read a fairly tale that is related to this time of the year. This year I read Nutcracker to my little one.
  4. Go to see some show. Nutcracker ballet season is here in different versions! Dress up and make a night out. And you just finished the book, so no need to google libretto.
  5. About hot drinks: tea is not the only option (even if it is with rum and chocolates): hot wine is so seasonal and super easy to make. Warm cheap – since you ll mess up with taste – wine, add to the pot cinnamon, clove, and oranges. One can drop sugar with rum on fire, or just add sugar to the pot. Once ready ( smells good),  make a sugar rim around water glasses and add wine. Enjoy!
  6. Last but not least; travel. Many people from north travel to warm countries. Although initially it sounds like a good idea, dramatic changes in temperature that increase flu risk and missing snow fun is guaranteed. I suggest small towns near mountains or with local Christmas markets (Germany, Finland, and Austria are some great countries to go). Eastern Europe loves New Year, so you ll find plenty of attractions this season.
  7. Happy Holidays!!!!



Vintage: use it to tell your story

In continuation of my “Boho chic” post, Vintage comes as a natural topic.  Just note, that similar to Boho, it is often associated with 70s. Initially “vintage” was related to certain year good quality wine that becomes better after few years. Now lots of people refer almost to every second hand clothes as vintage… I recently noticed that there is some confusion between “vintage”,” retro” and “secondhand”, so here is a little glossary:

Antique: the item is at least 100 years old

Vintage: the garment is 20-75 years old

Retro: the definition is broad and includes not only the age of garment or accessory but also refers to the style the new garment was made

Secondhand: worn before by someone else (includes vintage, antique, but also contemporary pieces)

Vintage as a market trend being around for decades, so clearly, this is a well established direction to develop personal style. It is also rare to see a person who would demonstrate pure vintage style. So most of the times people mix vintage items with new. Vintage clothes supposed to have certain age and of a good quality and as a fair consequence, a certain price tag.

So why would I write about vintage in my blog, where I tend to discuss budget outfits? Well, “budget” does not mean “not unique”, but more importantly, most people can find interesting and unique vintage garments in their family houses. Why we should care about vintage? To me personally, this means to tell a story. More specifically, this is  my family story, the way I incorporate my family past and remember it. The bag that I show here my grandma gave me two years ago- and it was out last meeting. She got it in 50s to go out with my grandpa is St. Petersburg. This is Chinese bag with pagodas. I feel happy wearing it and thinking about my grandma. Here I combined the bag with a very interesting dress form ASOS that is warm for winter events and beautifully decorated with plastic flowers. The bag and the dress have similar colors and share floral theme. These two circumstances help me to connect different centuries.

P.S.  This post is inspired by my grandma. One of the helpful resources about vintage I found here: https://vintagefashionguild.org




One surprising way to add happiness

An old tale:

” Two kids were wondering what their mother, generally happy and healthy lady, is doing everyday for 2 hours behind the closed door in her room? One day they entered the room and saw her sitting at the table and having a cup of tea.

-What are you doing? – they asked

-Making a happy mom for you, – was the answer”.

Tea originates from China as well as both names, tea and chai. These words now spread to different languages. Interestingly, chai in US is referred to indian way of cooking  tea with milk and spices ( like cardamon and bay leaves). For the first time, tea was mentioned as a medicine but later it became a centerpiece of a ceremony in China, Korea and Japan. Drinking tea was a process not only in those countries but also  in Turkey, India and Russia (think of samovar). Not to mention famous British 5 o`clock tea! Drinking tea was taking time, whether it was a green tea with 3 min brewing time or a long way cooked Turkish black tea. This was a social event, a ritual that cannot be done quickly. Feels like a “black hole” of your time that you can never afford? Would you prefer a cup next to your computer?

A lot of articles and career advices are focused on how to become more efficient to do more things, how to fit more to-do-lists and workouts in life to become a better, healthier version of ourselves. Multiple interviews portrait successful people as very busy perfect machines that have each minute scheduled. Yet another bulk of advices focuses on how to overcome stress, anxiety and burned-out stretched in our lives. Hmm.. Apparently, with more workouts, strict diet and tons of yoga and mediation classes. Great and healthy advices, however they often lack moderation. We tend to run from one extreme (12-14 hours work day) to another (everyday workouts and crazy detox).

Here I feel like to add an advice that helps me in my daily life to balance work, my daughter activities, workouts, household,  and some social life and events. Performing all these activities do not make me feel happy. I like doing them when I am in a good mood. But if I don’t, I don’t. So from where shall I take this good mood? I took that old story literally and now everyday I take time to have my cup of tea. It is a ritual but no rule: nice cups, something sweet or not… Even more: a cup of coffee in the morning myself, tea with friend in the afternoon, and a glass of wine after dinner with my husband. All meant to enjoy and celebrate life on daily basis. During this time I play board games with my little one, chat with my friend, or simply sit quietly and just feel good. The key is to make it a priority. I feel happier because I feel my life better. This is my pleasant meditation ( meditation is a degree of awareness). With all those troubles, sadness and fun in life, happiness is the process of realizing the moment.  The life is not about rushing through the checklist, it is about living each day.