What’s your story?

What is your storyDo you remember this post on small talk? I just saw a little video on different ways of starting small talk in different states in the US (you can also read about it here if you don’t want to watch the video), and I was amazed by how some people start small talk (“What is your mother’s maiden name?”!!!!)

When you meet someone in a party, a safe bet is always to talk about how you know the host off course. Despite that, I feel that when conversations happen with people I don’t know, the question I am always asked is “Where are you from?”.Which is fine, I guess.

When I am in Portugal, a normal conversation starter is “So you live in Berlin now? How is it?”. Most times I wish people wouldn’t just ask open-ended questions like that, I feel someone who asks that is doing it just for being polite and not because they are really interested in my life in Berlin. I mean, seriously, “How is it?”??!!! What am I expected to answer??? “Nice, thank you.”?

So here is an alternative list of questions to start a conversation with someone you know is living abroad:

  • Are there any typical foods?
  • How do people shop for food (big supermarkets on the suburbs/ weekly markets/ local supermarkets)?
  • What is the most famous TV show?
  • How is the traffic in Berlin? Do people drive/cycle a lot?
  • Do people go out eating/drinking/partying a lot?
  • Is it true that _______________ (fill in with any funny stereotype, not serious stuff, for example: Is it true Berliners spend their summer with socks and sandals?)
  • What is your favourite monument to visit? Are monuments free to visit?
  • Do you go to the cinema a lot? Are the films doubled everywhere?
  • Do you go to the theatre/opera/exhibitions? How are the prices and the quality?
  • Do you feel you are in a big city? Is it busy? Is it noisy?
  • What are your three favourite things about living in Berlin? And the least three favourite things?

Are you living abroad? Would you add any questions to this list?


Tidying up

Tidying upHow often do you tidy up your stuff at home? On a long telephone conversation with a good old friend some days ago she told me she just read the “The life-changing magic of tidying up” from Marie Kondo.

As the world’s number one fan of all things tidy this is really my cup of tea, so I am thinking maybe I should read the book…

Tidying up and throwing away/giving/selling things I don’t need is something I do well and often. I do spend quite a lot of time thinking about the functionality of each room, so every little thing has a home. Things are organised in a pretty logical manner (at least for me!), and if I would live alone I am sure the place would look impeccable all the time.

But off course I don’t live alone. I live with my tribe, and I am the only one who has this need for organised things and the talent to make it happen.

It is also quite interesting for me to observe which things are never put in their places, and to imagine ways of storage and organising that would encourage my people to put stuff away properly.

So I was thinking about my “rules” of storage/organising and I think these are my basic principles:

1. Every month or so there is a room I focus on.

Assuming the room doesn’t need changing (eg. an office that needs to be transformed in a bedroom), but only re-organising: If I have some uninterrupted hours, I take everything out of the cupboards/drawers/shelves, and sort out the things which are for sale, for giving away or to bin. Then I clean the empty cupboards/drawers/shelves and I look at them.

Then I organise the stuff on the floor:

  • I like to organise books by type (romance, history, poetry, tales, etc) and then each style by alphabetical order of the last name of the author.
  • Toys are organised on type and frequency of use: cars in a basket, games and puzzles in their own cupboard, Lego in big storage Lego boxes, doll and everything doll related in another basket, noisy plastic toys that have batteries in another basket, soft toys and stuffed animals in a large basket, etc.
  • Clothes are organised by season and then by type. I fold the t-shirts, jumpers, tops in rolls, so they fit neatly together and you can see every single one when you open the drawer.
  • Stationary, sewing and crafty stuff is everything in cupboards and drawers, with little sections and little boxes for each group of things which are used together (for example all the permanent pens are in a separate box from normal pens).

I use boxes and jars to keep things together and neat and then put everything back into the cupboards/drawers/shelves according to how often we use them. Things that are used all the time are very easy to access, off course. I always aim at making sure that the storage is appropriate and that is easy to locate (labels) and easy to handle (for example that when you take the box of glues out, the box with scissors doesn’t always fall).

2. I sort out stuff: to sell, give away or bin. I don’t have a “bring me joy” rule, but I just think: when did I last need this? And then: if in 10 years I need it, can I buy another one? Can I imagine I will like it as much as I do like this?

And that is how I religiously keep my beautiful heels and silk dresses (although I haven’t worn most for over three years) and give away things that are just filling cupboards but could in theory be more useful: towels, kitchen and tea towels, table cloths, etc. Every thing we give away or sell I know we won’t need it, but I also take comfort in knowing they are not precious and if I will ever need them again, any new ones will do.

3. Messy storage places. There are three closed places in the flat where my husband can store whatever he wants however he wants and I won’t say a thing. So he can have a bit of his own mess somewhere.

4. As I said before, everything has a home. All things alike are together. I am not sure I can explain this in any simpler way!

5. I let the flat have a life

Often there are children’s books on the floor of their sleeping room. Although that is not their place, those books are the ones we read to the children the most before bed, so I let them be, and once a week I put them back.

Same with special Lego constructions or train tracks. It is quite funny to see the constructions evolving over some days.

Almost every night, before bedtime routine, we ask The Older One to tidy up the toys which are out-of-place and we do a small 5-minute clean up. And then, once a week, every single thing goes back to their places, in a big clean up which I do alone. I must say The Older One started tidying up when he was maybe 20 months old, and he finds it natural, and accepts the fact that it is much nicer to play in a room which is mainly organised, instead of just having piles of toys everywhere.

6. I change organisation as it suits us

With two little ones, and our routines changing as they grow, we constantly need to adapt the flat to our needs, and that is fine.

7. I like functional places

Although all pens live in the office, we often need a pen in the kitchen, and at the entrance of the flat, or in the bedroom. And although the bags live in a bag-carrier in the kitchen, there is always a couple in a little drawer at the entrance, because so often I need to go back to the kitchen to take a bag with something on my way out. So there are these little things, which are a bit out-of-place but they make life easier everyday.

And yes, we sometimes end up with 5 pens at the entrance and no plastic bags in the kitchen. That is where the weekly tidying up comes in…On a normal week I need around 30 minutes to tidy up. And it is not so bad, I go around with a basket taking things away and into different rooms and I am already imagining which will be the next room victim to my “tidying up day”…


Revolution and red carnations

25 april

Today is a special day.

It marks the 42nd anniversary of the most beautiful revolution I know of. A bloodless revolution, symbolised with flowers, that marked the end of the longest dictatorship in Europe in the 20th century.

You can read about it here, and maybe have a glass of wine while you read it – if you are on a bad day, that will certainly restore your faith in humanity 🙂

What does the music you listen to say about your personality?

Music and personalityHave you heard of the “Musical Universe” quizzes, part of ongoing research at the University of Cambridge?

I only did one so far, on Musical Taste, first answered several questions about my personality and musical tastes, and then listened to short music pieces and decide how much I liked each.They are aiming to link different personality types to different music tastes.

I was given scores for Music Preferences, Personality and Satisfaction with Life. Each score is explained and they give you the overview of how your results fit within the rest of the people who did the test.

Most results were not very surprising, apart from saying that my taste on electronic music is quite low (which is not true), and that my taste for complex music is much much higher than any other, which I am also not sure is true… Still fun!

I am pretty sure I won’t resist doing the other quizzes too…

April showers bring May flowers

a mobile for april 1 - The Yellow SideSpring is most definitely here, with some warm sunny days, and some fairly warm rainy days too. So we made this mobile to hang in a doorway, to celebrate the April showers.

a mobile for april 2 - The Yellow SideI gave The Older One three thick bits of paper and grey, yellow and blue tempera paint with sponges.

He sponged away both sides of the paper, and then we let it dry.

a mobile for april 3 - The Yellow SideI then drew a sun on the yellow paper, rain drops on the blue paper and 2 clouds on the grey one and we cut out everything.

a mobile for april 4 - The Yellow SideWe did a little cut in one of the clouds so they could fit together…

a mobile for april 5 - The Yellow Side…connected the rain drops using a thin thread and a needle…a mobile for april 6 - The Yellow Side…et voilá!

a mobile for april 7 - The Yellow Side

I really like the effect of the sponge-painting, and the rain drops move beautifully when we pass by…

These days…

These days 9 4th AprilWe have been travelling a bit in the last couple of weeks and now the Spring has arrived to Berlin, so I have been busy enjoying the warmth.

Berlin in the Spring is one of my favourite things in the world. Will post about that on another day 🙂

I think a lot about cultural stereotypes and so was not surprised to see that this is one of the biases that can affect (badly) our decisions, if we are not aware. Here is a compact list.

Still on stereotypes, I love this campaing “Turn Ignorance Around“, have you heard of it??