2016, May 27

Six reasons to smile in May

May was interesting for me this year. The weather was being all kinds of weird and bipolar from one minute to the next, but luckily we had a few sunny weekends so I managed to go on a road trip and hike, out for lemonade and drinks with friends, on several walks, and celebrated my birthday.

I wanted to see the handmade lanterns placed on the edge of nearly every path in Central Park for the Festival of Light event (sorry, the link is to their Romanian page) – an event I somehow managed to miss three years in a row until this past Saturday.
The Festival of Light is a national event, synchronously organized by the “Romania’s Scouts” National Organization members and young local volunteers annually. It is an event for everyone and anyone, in order to create a quiet space, to disconnect participants from the daily hustle and make them remember that the little things all around them can make their moments, days and lives better.
I am beyond happy that I finally attended, it was sooo pretty!

As the end of May is near, yesterday I went through my photos and chose six photographs to make a cute collage.

Here are the reasons I smiled in May:

page six reasons may

Did you smile a lot this month? What were your reasons? In case you’ve also captured them on camera, I’d love to see!

2016, May 20

Recipe of the Month: Leek & Green Beans Chicken Stir-Fry

While thinking of recipes for my birthday lunch, I realized that I’ve only recently started adding leek into recipes when cooking.
I recall my grandma making some recipes with leeks when I was little, and me hating the taste of every single one of them. But now that I have control over what goes into certain dishes, as is with many other things actually, I especially like cooking chicken with leeks.

When in the mood for something super simple, yet delicious and filling, I turn to this chicken stir-fry recipe.

chicken leek green beans

Leek & Green Beans Chicken Stir-Fry

500 grams chicken breast
1 large leek, or 2 small leeks
300 grams green beans
pinch of salt, pepper, ginger, and curry
olive oil
splash of wine or chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce

Cut the green beans up (if you want to) and cook them in a pan with a bit of olive oil, seasoned with salt, white pepper, ginger and maybe some curry, tossing frequently for about 5-10 minutes. Add a little water if you’re not using frozen green beans straight out of the freezer.
After the beans turn color, cut the chicken up in small cubes and add it to the pan.

When the chicken is nearly cooked, add in the leeks, thinly sliced. The leeks get sauteed quickly while the chicken finishes cooking. You can add a splash of wine, too, for an extra flavor; or just add a bit of chicken stock so the leeks have some “juice” to saute in. Add one tbsp of soy sauce.

Cook for another 5 minutes, then serve as is or with a side of rice.

When in the mood for something fancier, I go with my homemade Szechuan Chicken recipe. Come to think of it, it’s not even that it’s fancier, just has more ingredients, hence more prep work to it.
And to tell the truth, when in lack of time or if I’m just plain lazy, I leave out the green beans and make the chicken stir-fry with leeks only. It still tastes wonderful!

Let me know if you try making either of these! I’m curious to see if you liked them.

Bon appétit! ;)

2016, May 13

My thoughts on seeing one’s ex at an event

As I was searching for wedding-related hair/dress/survival guide ideas for a wedding we’ll attend later this year, I came across this article. The first lines of the article say “Post break-up, you’re bound to get it: The dreaded invite to the party/picnic/wedding where you know your ex will be. But instead of viewing it like the sequel to “Doomsday,” start prepping for it like a big red carpet event.” My mind immediately started screaming “No, No, No. No!”

I read on, curious to see the rest of the advice listed in the article and kept shaking my head in disagreement. Especially since some of the suggestions are quite good, but not the way the author spins them. Also, I suspect it’s a semi-sponsored article, since the author keeps suggesting stuff to buy, like that “red carpet dress”. So, I decided to share with you the list of suggestions and my thoughts on them. I will wait patiently while you go read the original article for comparison.

  • Splurge on a new dress – I agree that you shouldn’t show up in PJs and can splurge on a new dress if you have the means to, or wear your prettiest dress that you feel excellent in!
    However, the reason for this should not be driven by what your ex thinks, liked on you or color he hates. You should feel good in what you’re wearing, all the time and regardless of your ex being there or not, let alone in a fancier setting like a wedding.
  • Bring a wingman – I mostly agree with this, it doesn’t really matter what the event is, of course it’s always more fun if you go with someone, especially if you might not know too many people there. Like the article says, sure, if you don’t feel like taking a date then take a platonic guy or girl friend.
    Not for your ex’s benefit/to make them jealous/to show off though!
  • Get your hair/nails/makeup did – The take-away from this suggestion in the article is to not look like you tried too hard, and if your ex never saw you with makeup before, don’t show up sporting false lashes and siren red lipstick.
    I think you should never look like you’ve tried too hard, not only when you might run into an ex. And I strongly disagree with that second part about makeup. On the one hand, you shouldn’t care if your ex never saw you wearing makeup before, and on the other hand: people change!
    Personally I only wore makeup occasionally during high school and uni years. I honestly wore little to no makeup up until two years ago, when I started working in an office setting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the minimalist style and most likely won’t wear false lashes to any event, but I do enjoy a darker lip color on occasion. So why we are told not to wear that only because our ex might be at an event and never saw us wearing such makeup is beyond me!
  • Wear your signature fragrance – In the article, this suggestion bluntly comes off as advice on how to bring back memories in your ex of fancy dinners you guys went on, of borrowing their shirt and giving it back smelling like you, of just you.
    While I agree that wearing your signature fragrance is fun because you love it, that’s why it’s your signature fragrance, I don’t agree with only wearing it/wearing it in excess only to bring up memories in your ex. They will remember the past just by seeing you anyway.
  • Take care of the areas he will never even see – Even the sentence in the article starts with “this might seem counter-intuitive.” So, really?
    Yes, of course, take care of the areas the ex or anyone else other than your current partner will see, but do it for yourself! You have to be the one who feels good in their skin so never think about this stuff as being something that you do for your partner’s benefit, or worse, for your ex’s benefit.
  • Have a drink… but not five – OK, this is one of the very few points in the article that I fully agree with.
    May I add though, that I think one should never go past their measure, regardless of their ex being at the event or not.
  • Give your friends talking points – The suggestion here is to tell friends to drop hints or work info about you into the conversation, so you’re not the one bragging about that new job, huge apartment or awesome vacation you’re taking. They end the paragraph with the question “well, better from her lips than yours, right?”
    Well, this is just a flat out “NO!” in my opinion. Unless specifically asked for advice, friends, either mutual or not, should not be involved with what is/was between the two of you.
    If you’re having a genuine conversation with friends and the ex is part of that conversation (or overhears it) sure, it’s not like that information is classified. However, if you’re manipulating the conversation into that direction, that is not OK. Both you and your friends should be mindful of what you say to an ex.
    If exes want to find out something about you, they will ask. If they don’t, they’re either too uncomfortable or are simply over you and don’t care to know. You can tell which of these two when you ask them about how they are doing. There is no need to over-share.
  • Be gracious – I do agree with this point. Don’t let your ex hear about grudges you hold, or names you’ve called them. It’s always helpful to have some easy conversation topics in mind so you don’t run into rehashing old things. Make your time with them short, sweet and gracious, and don’t monopolize their time over the course of the evening (ie. if both of you smoke, don’t time every single cigarette “break” at the same time with theirs).
  • Hit the dance floor (but not the karaoke machine) – I agree with this as well. Your every single action shouldn’t revolve around your ex’s presence in the room. Don’t fake it or over do it, don’t stay on the dance floor all night long if that is not who you normally are. Be yourself and have fun!
  • Make a perfectly timed exit –  I agree that you don’t have to stay until the end of the night just because your ex does. Unless you do actually have other plans/obligations, you probably shouldn’t be rude to your hosts and run out before the main course is served.
    However, my advice is to stay for as little or as long as you feel the need to! You’re the only one who knows how much fun you’re having, and it should not depend on your ex’s actions/presence there.

Now, this is just my two cents, I am not calling myself an expert on relationships. So now I have to ask you, what do you think about the points above?

2016, May 6

Why I won’t be going to my high school reunion

First off, I am not alone in this! Just search “going to high school reunion” on Google and notice how most titles contain the words “not going”, or start with “X reasons” to either attend or not.

Second, I was actually excited when I first heard the reunion was being organized. I figured I could attend for a few hours, if only to celebrate my current life without all the crap and drama from high school. We could get back in touch, reminisce, satisfy our curiosity about who is where in their life, and party like it’s 2006.
I talked to one of the people organizing the event, and he said he’d call me when anything has been decided since I don’t have a Facebook account under my name (because of stalker issues way back when, I still won’t be sharing my pen name but with a handful of people I know in real life). He asked if I knew phone numbers of some former colleagues, or had any ideas for an event hall. I said I’d find out/ask advice from friends and get back to him.
When I found out one of the phone numbers he was interested in, I texted him. After I complied a list of five event hall ideas I knew were good and not too pricey, I texted him.
Both texts received the same answer, that is, NO answer. Two months later there was still no news from him or anyone organizing the reunion.

That half-snapped me out of it!

I started thinking. Or overthinking?
Sure, after suffering through high school and having since built a wonderful, rewarding life for myself despite any bad experiences and setbacks (that’s just Life), showing off my success to the people that treated me badly could’ve been quite vindicating. Then again, when ever I wanted to, I could’ve just friended all my former high school colleagues on Facebook if I wanted to brag or see who is up to what in their life.
However, I have kept in touch with precisely two (2!) people from high school! Another person I ran into on a nearly daily basis when I was working as QA, but she rarely said “hello” back.
If I want someone in my life, chances are they’re already there!

The idea of one hundred people in the same room as me doesn’t really agree with me. You might recall I don’t particularly like weddings either, although one did give me enough material for a blog post. (As a side note, I am already dreading having to go to a wedding this October where I can’t use that clever survival guide, since I’m not really friends with the bride and groom.)
While these people I do somewhat know after four years of high school together, having to make polite chit-chat while old cliques inevitably form doesn’t appeal to me. We didn’t have much in common ten years ago, and I don’t expect to have much in common now after we’ve all changed, defined ourselves and turned into adults.

New York Magazine ran an article about “Why you never truly leave high school”, which discussed how our self-image from those years is especially adhesive. The article asserts that one of the reasons high schools produce such peculiar value systems is precisely because the people there have little in common, except their ages. Since there is no clear way to sort out social status, kids create them on their own based on crude, common-denominator stuff like nice clothes, athletic prowess, and looks, rather than on subtleties in personalities. This results in an unfortunate paradox: Though adolescents may want nothing more than to be able to define themselves, they discover that high school is one of the hardest places to do it. I didn’t have nice clothes, wasn’t athletic, and went through quite a long phase of curtain-type bangs. Maybe (surely) I was one of those kids, not quite fitting into one of those categories, but desperately wanting to neatly belong.

Truth be told, what makes me happiest about my decision of not attending my high school reunion isn’t only all of the above. I could’ve made myself suck it up and go, only for those people who I maybe would’ve liked catching up with. I just didn’t want to after really thinking about all of this. I figured I’d rather go out with friends I do enjoy being with and celebrate my birthday instead.
I texted the guy organizing the reunion, saying that I won’t be going. I wanted to do the right thing so they wouldn’t count on me. This time, he texted back. He said I should’ve checked the Facebook group discussions if I wanted to find out anything about the event before making other plans, that I was the only one who didn’t receive the information he put out there.

OK. That definitely snapped me out of it!

2016, April 29

Six Reasons to Smile in April – the Poetry edition

Today is the last stop on the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour

For those who are new to my blog, this is part of my year-round series of sharing six reasons I smiled each month, in picture form.

As April and National Poetry Month come to an end, I thought I’d try something different and go with a poetry theme for my six reasons to smile photo collage this month. It was so much fun reading more poetry, the interviews and other poetry-themed blog posts, and sharing it all with friends!

page six reasons to smile in april

You still have time to go check out all of the participating blog posts, reviews and interviews born this month! All the stops of the blog tour are compiled into this neat list on Savvy Verse & Wit.

How did your National Poetry Month go? Read anything you think I’d like? Do share!

2016, April 22

Book Spine Poetry – Paris

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Today is the fourth stop on the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

The concept of book spine poetry appeared in 1993 with Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books project. Katchadourian began collecting interesting titles and arranging them in clusters so the spines could be read like a sentence. Maria Popova of Brain Pickings adapted the spine sentences into poetry, and the idea quickly spread around.

NPMBlogTour2016I learned that teachers have been using this technique to inspire kids to write poems (and use their books!), and that there are book spine poetry contests floating around the internet.

Since I last created book spine poems three years ago, inspired by a friend of mine who wrote the most stunning book title poem, I bought quite a few new books.

To name the best examples, I gave up buying something else and bought one book each month in 2013.
And then after receiving an Amazon voucher in December 2015 as the sole winner of an Innovation Week event our client held at work, I bought seven books in one fell swoop.

Some of them I’ve read already, some not yet.
However, here is some book spine poetry I managed to arrange from the newer titles I own.

For some reason, my heart was drawn to a Paris theme this time around.

20160414_182903

Paris letters,
the sweet life in Paris,
(and) Paris in love –
All the brights places,
(are) hidden in Paris.

Messing up my beautifully organized shelves was worth it.

Want to play? Go arrange some of your books into pretty book spine poetry and then leave me a link to your photo in the comments section so I can check it out :)

How is your National Poetry Month going? Read anything you think I’d like? Do share!

2016, April 15

That moment – by Estrella Azul

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Today is the third stop on the Savvy Verse & Wit National Poetry Month Blog Tour.

Last week, I printed out the National poetry Month poster and displayed it on a cork board at work, hoping it’ll inspire some of my colleagues, too.
I have to say I’m having a lot of fun this month reading more poetry than I do on a regular basis!

Since I haven’t posted this on my blog before, and lately I felt the need to start gathering all of me/my writing in just this one place, I will share with you my poem, “That Moment”, which was featured on ArtiPeeps back in 2014.

~

NPMBlogTour2016That Moment,
by Estrella Azul

Four hours… passed by in a flash.
A cup of fragrant Jasmine tea in a cozy cafe,
gave way to a long walk as the wind made them shiver.
A fire lit up inside as dusk turned into night,
as drizzle turned into rain, as two lips touched.
That moment… it felt like eternity.
For her, that moment felt like a hike.
It felt like sunbathing on a hilltop,
surrounded by mountains covered in sparkly snow.
She felt her soul fill with warmth and calmness.
That moment… it felt like perfection,
in her world filled to the brim with uncertainty.

~

In other news, my wonderful writer friend, Janel Gradowski who first introduced me to National Poetry Month when she interviewed me as part of the 2010 blog tour, has the first book of her culinary competition series, “Pies and Peril” now free on Amazon through April 24th. This is the first time any book in that series has been offered for free, so I urge you to go download and read it as it’s truly a book worth spending your precious reading time on!

How is your National Poetry Month going? Read anything you think I’d like? Do share!

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