On wine…

On wineAfter 18 dry months, I have enjoyed my first glass of red last week. Around were we live there are plenty of little independent wine shops and from my experience I always leave with a good wine for a fair price (very cheap, comparing to London’s prices for wine!).

So last week I got my first red German, and am curious to try out some more.

What are your favourite wines? I feel my taste is changing quite a lot after two pregnancies (or maybe it is age-related ;)) so am quite in the mood for a wine tasting session to update my list!

[Here are some tips for ordering a good wine in a restaurant!]


The rules of sharing

The rules of sharingPlayground season is open in Berlin.

Between now and October, playgrounds will be full of families and there’s a lot of super interesting things happening for my foreign eyes.

First, there are a lot of playgrounds. Off the top of my head, I can count 12 playgrounds on a radius of one kilometer from where we live, including a dragon-themed, a witch-themed, a fire-station-themed and a train-themed playground.

All playgrounds have some place for adults to sit. Parents (mostly mothers during the week, and mostly fathers on Saturdays) sit around, chatting with friends or with other parents, having a coffee, while the kids play. Parents also play with the kids, but not the whole time. Maybe they hang around with the kid making sand castles, then push them on the swing, and then sit down for a bit of a chat, while the kids roam free.

I like how the kids take their toys and play with the sand here. I also like how they learn basic rules forliving in a society in a playful context, and that most parents only intervene if things get ugly (read: physical).

I love observing the kids playing, and how the parents react to different things that happen, and the most interesting thing of all is the sharing of toys.

Imagine The Older One is playing with his toys and a kid comes around and asks for the bucket (or just takes it!!). Of course The Older One, as a normal almost-three year old, takes it back, shouts “Mine” or comes to me for help.

And many parents, me included a while back, would kneel down and tell The Older One: “Yes this is your bucket, but the boy wants to play with it for a little bit and then he will bring it back. All is good, we can share! Maybe the boy also has something you would like to play with?”

And that is what I used to tell him too.

But then…I imagined: I would go out to the park, take some books, some food, maybe some pencils to make some drawings. And an adult would come and just take my pencils and the drawing pad, or a book, or my apple. He could ask, or not, but basically he would take the things I brought on purpose “to play with”.

How would you feel? I would be super mad, and I would probably try to politely tell him “Get away, this is my stuff and I am using it”.

Now back to The Older One, and the bucket.

It is important that The Older One learns that he can share, and that sharing can be a wonderful thing. So now, I tell him: “Yes, these are all your things. Also your bucket. If you let the boy play with that bucket for a bit I am sure he will feel happier and it will be because of you! I think it is lovely to share our toys sometimes and I would love if you would try sharing your bucket with the boy and see how you feel. But it’s your bucket, and it’s your choice!”.

And you know what? It doesn’t always work, The Older One doesn’t always want to share. Easier with friends and even that way we do have some sharing issues sometimes. But that is fine for me, because he knows he can choose to share if he would like and that sharing goes both ways, and at the end of the day that is the most important thing for me.

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…