Monday, November 6, 2017

How to add coziness to your home this winter

Switching everything up for winter and preparing your home as if the apocalypse is coming might be a pretty much safe plan, but you certainly don’t want to add more mess to your home, because messy is not cozy.
While all cozy and warm things tend to normally be very bulky, it is possible to add warmth through different small tricks and additions, without particular fuss and big spending.

1. Neutral blankets and throws
Think white, beige, grey, camel and any neutral color for all the winter blankets and throws, especially those you keep by the sofa to curl up in the evenings. Not only won’t they interfere with your home style and holiday decorations, but it helps maintain a calm visual space. Even if you keep them out in the living room all the time, it won’t scream that much “mess”. This can be done in every home, no matter the color of your décor. Make sure to choose textured and soft throws for extra coziness.

2. Candles with three or more wicks
A single wick candle is great, but you will need a lot to fill your space in order to get that warm glowing atmosphere. Unless you don’t mind caring for multiple candles, dusting them and moving them around daily, it is wiser to choose one with three or four wicks. This will intensify the light it gives, creating the illusion of a warmer atmosphere.

3. Yellow or secondary lighting
If you have a lighting system you can manually control, choose to dim the lights, especially when dark outside. In case your lights are bright white, switch some bulbs to yellow (or neutral) ones in the rooms you don’t use for reading and writing. The yellow glow is much more delicate and will instantly create a cozier space. Another option, great for evenings, is to switch off all lights and use only the secondary sources, such as floor lamps, wall scones or hidden lights. As soon as you get used to this romantic mood, you will have a hard time going back to full lighting.

4. Switch the artwork
Any big focal piece of art with cool tones that scream “summer“ should go now. As much as you love it, put it in storage for a few months. Go for a warm toned painting or print one of your own pictures in big resolution. If you prefer a gallery wall, choose warm colors, with lots of texture and mix in a few wintery themed objects in there (leaves, pine cones, decorations, mini wreaths, etc.). A fast and easy trick is to replace the painting you’re taking away with a big winter wreath. Choose a classic or modern one, that is not particularly Christmassy, so you can cherish it for the whole cold season.

5. Change the scent
If you don’t already use a scent for your home, it’s time to think about it. Never underestimate the power of an aromatic spray, scent diffuser or even something as simple as simmering a pot of water with spices and fruit on the stove. Most of us associate different periods of our lives with scents and feelings, so give yourself and your family the opportunity to recall warmth and coziness from this winter. Not only will your entire home smell like a holiday factory, but it will instantly feel calmer, cozier and cleaner than it actually is.

6. Basket of coziness
Keep a special basket in the living room or corridor to put in all extra warming items, like socks, slippers, water bottles, hand warmers, scarves and everything else your family uses to warm up during the day and evenings. This will cut clutter and time with everyone knowing where what they need is. It will make cleaning up a breeze too. If needed, you can put a second basket by your front door or mud room for all the cold weather accessories you need to grab before going out.

How to find the best way to help someone

how to find the best way to help someone

Every day there are people out there struggling, be it with small inconveniences or bigger life strokes.

For those you feel like helping out in some way, there's often the question of "How?". It's the same struggle, whether you don't know them very well or they're your best friend.

Sometimes the situation is so complicated or delicate, that you truly don't have the slightest idea as how to approach it. Other times you simply cannot figure out what the person in need would appreciate the most from you in that certain time in their life.

Of course every person is different and depending on what they are dealing with, you'll have to do your personal thinking and judging, but as a general guide, you might want to start with the following steps.

1. What would you need if you were in their situation?

Assess the information you already have regarding their struggle and try to imagine how'd you feel, what you'd miss, what might help you, where would you prefer to go and how could someone with your actual role in their life help you.
Brainstorm quickly and write down as much as you can. There are no wrong answers at this point.

2. Add what they lack, in comparison to you.

Continue the same scenario on your mind, just try to include the actual circumstances of the other person. We can't always know accurately, just try as far as you can.
Start with the obvious, such as gender, age, marital status, background, parental status, etc. They might be parents or own a pet. A male has different needs to a female in most scenarios. If they're younger than you, try to project yourself to when you were their age. Married people like yourself might not need companionship, but single ones could appreciate it a lot.

After going through these obvious factors, go a little further and think of their financial/ social/ relationship/ family statuses. Someone may be in a worse financial situation than you and could use all the help in that section. Or maybe they don't have good relationships with family members and there's no one to support them emotionally. For someone, lending your time or knowledge could be more helpful than anything else. Or could be more straightforward and simple, like if someone sick normally cooks for their family and you could save their life by dropping by a few cooked/bought meals until they get better.

3. Cross off what they don't need.

You should have a pretty long list of what your friend, relative or stranger in need could use by now.  So, it's time to cross off the list everything that they wouldn't need.

Start with notes from point 1. Remove what you'd need, but they don't (because they are not you). They could be in a better financial situation than you or they might already have a lot of people by their side to support them emotionally. Or they don't have kids/spouses/pets to take care of.

Then go on to the notes from point 2. Consider what you can cross off here, including the things you don't know for sure or the things they haven't told you themselves and you heard from others you can't expose. Also, everything that could make you come off as rude or nosy or inappropriate should not be considered anymore.
This part is a little difficult, but go with this general rule: if they would feel bad about the reason you'd do something for them, out it goes.

4. Evaluate each thing on the list.

When you end up with a more compact list, you can start to evaluate which one/ones would have the bigger impact on their lives right now and would make them feel better and less of the negative things they are feeling.

In the end, trust your gut and go with what you feel more in sync with, but not what you're more comfortable with. It's about them, not about you!

~  ***  ~

If all these steps seem excessive, too time consuming and the whole process seems intimidating to you, remember why you googled "How to find the best way to help someone?" or why you clicked on this link or just why you thought this article could be interesting. Most probably, it's because the person you are willing to help means a lot to you or you just want so badly to do the best for someone.

So, if you care so much, you can totally spend 5-10 minutes deciding on the best way to help them. And I am certain that it won't go without notice, whatever it is that you pick from the list with your best intentions, no matter how small or simple it might be.

Also, remember that the first time you do the exercise, it will take the longest. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it will feel. You will soon reach a level when you won't need a pen and paper to write things down anymore and you'll be able to go through the whole exercise in your head.

How would you feel if someone did this for you? Exactly! You already have the answer and the motivation you need!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

5 classes to add to your university schedule

You may already have too many classes scheduled for this year, to begin with. Also, your hobbies and social life barely fit into the few free hours left. How can you add more classes and keep your life together? Fear not because these particular classes will actually maximize your time and will add quality to your university experience. 
Here are the extra classes you should consider this year:

If you only choose one class, then this must be it. The first thing you should master before you dip into the pile of textbooks and projects is your time and energy. If your university doesn’t offer such a class, you will have to find your own source. A few good places to start are Creative Live, Skillshare, Iversity and Udemy, that offer short courses or in depth classes, usually for free or a small fee. Podcasts are another great source of information, that can be listened to while on your commute, during breaks or while exercising. If you prefer the good old way of learning through books, pick one or two and go through them. If all else fails, read trustful websites (Lifehack, Popexpert and Levo are a few great ones) and blogs that provide helpful advice on the topic.

Taking a sort of time management class will help you get more organized, focus on long term goals and cut down your time by developing optimization systems for daily tasks. If you embrace the right habits, you will get more done in less time, worry a lot less because you will have control over your schedule, time and energy.

If you already play a certain sport or are part of a team, this is already crossed off your list. For the rest of you, going to the gym will require additional time and effort, especially in the winter months, so having your physical activity in your university schedule will make it easier to stick to it. Consider anything you like, from swimming to yoga. Persuade a friend to attend the class with you, so it will be more fun.

Committing to a physical activity class will give your body a break from the long hours spent sit or in front of the computer. It will also prevent you from crushing down during stressful and sleepless exam periods. Not long into it and you will appreciate all the negative feelings being released and welcome the fresh energy burst.

Whatever it is that you already enjoy doing or something you have been curious to try for a long time, it’s time to sign up for a class. Most universities provide a wide range of extra curricular classes and it will be easy to find something you like. If not, try to join a group of people with the same interest. It could be as simple as a book club or as specific as you like. In case you prefer more individual hobbies, sign up for an online class, which you can find on Craftsy, Skillshare and many other websites.

Scheduling time for your interests and hobbies is a healthy practice to keep a balance between what you have to do and what you love doing.

Having an extra class in what you are studying will help you shift the perspective and boost your confidence. At the end of my first year of studying Architecture, I invested in a private AutoCAD (a technical drafting computer program) class. The same lectures were held during the second year at the university. What I got out of taking the class early was confidence during the class, more time to practice (which I wouldn’t have during the second year with all the load) and more experience to tackle other classes and projects (for example, I could represent an idea better in less time for most other classes). 

This concept takes different meanings for each field of study, so find what might be of interest to your subject. Invest on a private coaching session with an expert, take an advanced class or use your summer break to get ahead of next years most challenging areas for you.

While not technically a class, you should preferably apply for an internship as soon as you can. This will not only make it easier to gain a paid one (or several ones) and land a great job upon graduation, but it will give you what no class can – practice. We are aware that things in every industry are far from what we learn through books, so getting out there on the real world as early as possible will help you gain knowledge and will also give you confidence to prioritize your time and effort according your goals. 

The internship should be tightly related to something you are passionate about, otherwise you will find reasons to drop out of it. Being around encouraging people will help you evolve and be proud of the extra time you are spending. Just try to land a flexible opportunity, with a few hours commitment each week, so it won’t eat up time from your studying. 

Doing several internships from early on is particularly beneficial for those of you who are considering freelancing or entrepreneurship before or after graduating.

| Love, Lisa |

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book review - “Marina” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

About the book

"Marina" has a similar veil of mystery as “The shadow of the wind” by the same author, which I had read before. The plot is made of a dark history from the past, solved by two teenagers.

The history takes place in Barcelona, a city described in a very poetic way by the author, making it able for the readers to imagine sights, architecture and landscape. This effort was probably pretty intentional of the author, as not to make Barcelona boring for the readers, since used as a context in other books too.

Writing style

As with any complex stories, a lot of names are involved, which are a little hard to recall and connect to each other once you interrupt the reading by a few days. The storyline goes on quite fast, not leaving you wonder for what seems like an eternity. 

However, the author is actually quite generous on descriptive passages and he gives all the necessary details to emerge the reader into every single scene. I personally believe that is the main factor that makes Zafón a great writer. He can fearlessly stand by the classics in terms of descriptive writing style.


It’s interesting to state that the main characters (Oscar and Marina) are not introduced thoroughly from the beginning, but they develop through the story instead. Their feelings are also left on a second plot layer most of the time, letting the mystery take all the focus. 

Sometimes secondary characters are described in a few sentences or paragraphs, while special attention is reserved for Marina’s father at the beginning of the book.
General thoughts

Quite often, the details of the action scenes are quite intense and scary, making it feel like you’re reading pure fiction, crime and mystery literature, something I found unexpected from Zafón.

A few of the final events and explanations unfolded at the end of the story can be easily guessed, so some things shouldn’t have been treated as a huge mystery to begin with. But then again, it’s two teenagers solving a story which started hunting them against their will, so maybe things should actually be presented as they are – quite terrifying.

Overall, the read is quick, as long as you don’t interrupt more than twice and relatively light. Although the author has build the whole book based on the most universal pillars of life, such as love, wealth, greed, generosity and the need to conquer death, he has still managed to keep it quite light on the top level.

It’s a nice balance between narrative and dialogues, mystery and history, love and action, details and crucial matters.

Of course a few tears were shed at the end, but that could just be my hypersensitive self.

The odd bits

At times one can wonder how people like doctors and police officers open up, trust and reveal they old secrets to two very young people. I wonder what made 15 year olds trustful, appealing and why people told them the truth, while still protecting them from the possible dangers, warning them all the time. They sure had material proofs once or twice, but for the rest of the meetings they had nothing but insecurity, fear and a few of Marina’s “straight to the point” questions and answers.

In general, I was left with a slight feeling that several secondary stories within the book were left unfinished. I wouldn’t mind reading about Oscar’s relationship with his family, because it’s unbelievable for things not to have changed after all he went through.


- Try not to interrupt the reading more than a couple of times. Ideally, the book is better read from start to finish.
- Pay attention to the story when it is unfold for the first time, as it won’t be explained again as a whole and you’ll find it difficult to keep track of the characters and their relations.
- Appropriate for teens, vacation days or a quick winter read before bed.
- Will be appreciated by all fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón and everyone that favors an excellent writing style over a fascinating plot.

Read: January 2014
Language: Albanian


I'd love to know what you think about the book, whether you've read it or not. Also, any other fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafón? I am so glad I discovered him two years ago and truly believe he should be called a classic. 

| Love, Lisa |

Friday, December 26, 2014

Post-Christmas traditions for the whole family

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! I hope you are spending these days with loved ones by your side and in your hearts.
The major excitement for this holiday fades a little after Christmas Eve and everyone gets slightly quiet right after the 25th.
To keep the post-Christmas blues away and introduce something meaningful to your family, you could give these ideas a try. They involve the whole family and can be as quick or as long as you wish.

1. The wrapping paper from the open presents
Don't trash the pile of torn wrapping paper from the open presents yet. Instead, choose a couple or one for each family member (or kids only) and write on the back. It can be your favorite moment from this holidays, your favorite present, the blessings you can count as a family, your wishes for other people or hopes for the next holiday. The options are endless, but pick what is the closest to your heart. After that, you can put all the wrapping paper pieces together and store them with the holiday ornaments until next year, put them in a scrapbook or photo album, assemble them into an art piece for the home or create your own unique ritual.

2. The tree trimmings
When time comes to put down the Christmas tree and all the decorations of the house, make a ritual of slowing down a little. For every bauble or tree trimming that you remove, take a second to associate it with its meaning, a dear memory or just a wish or blessing if it's newly bought. Kids will love to help with this and they can come up with hilarious things. It could teach you all something deep and meaningful, or at least reflect how blessed you were these holidays. Nevertheless, it must be fun to try.

3. The extra food
If you've cooked more food than your family needs or you have items in your pantry that you're not using anytime soon, consider giving it away. Leftovers can be portioned and packaged individually for neighbors, postmen, police officers, cleaning teams, guards and everyone who would appreciate your thoughtful gesture. Driving around the town with your kids and delivering the packages would be fun.
If you want to make this more significant, you might consider teaming up with other families and gather enough food to donate to a shelter, senior house, hospital, orphanage or any other institutions in your area that might need extra help this time of the year.

Here you go! Three simple ideas to try, if you feel like there's nothing exciting until the New Year's Eve or your life needs a little intention.

Leave a comment below if you try them please.

Wishing each and every one of you all the best! Enjoy these days, as they fly by sooo quickly.

May your heart welcome everything it wishes for during this magical season!

See you in 2015 :)

| Love, Lisa |

Friday, December 19, 2014

23 gifts for better living

Today I thought about sharing a bunch of gifts that the receivers would enjoy in their home. The focus is on items that can be shared as activities between all family members and objects that induce positive initiatives. Also, there are a lot of other gifts that promote comfort, along with a heavy doze of planning and organizing help.

These can serve as hostess gifts too, with many being under $20. You can also find inspiration for family members, friends, relatives, bosses, coworkers and everyone else.

Let's jump into each of the items and find out why I'd give each gift to someone in particular.

1. Stationery set
The set can be enjoyed by one person, shared amongst family members or serve as a planning and organizing capsule for the house.

 2. Heatable doll
This heatable doll will be a hit for both kids and adults, providing extra cuddles when needed.

3. Kid's apron and hat set
Imagine how much fun a family can have in the kitchen baking all together, or at least the uninterrupted time you'll give to the mother, while the children pretend to be cooking, wearing these cuties.

4. Botanical desk calendar
Not only it this item useful for everyone leading a busy life, but it's created by Rifle Paper Co., which equals fabulous design.

5. Piggy bank
This half piggy bank gets attached to any container and instantly turns it in into a bank. Perfect for committing to no-brainer saving in every room.

6. Love letters
Love is such a powerful word and I believe should be the first thing promoted and encouraged in a family. Let them be reminded that whatever they do needs to be done with love and whatever happens, love is what matters most. Seems so cheesy, but it's universally true. Also, it doesn't hurt that the letters are gold and would look good everywhere, from the living room to the kids room.

7. Bubble calendar
What I like most about this calendar, beyond the fun of popping the bubbles, is that you have all the days of the year lined in front of you. You have the whole year ahead to make anything you wish, but the days are limited and you better take advantage of each. Such a simple and powerful message to give!

8. Instagram projector
The miniature projector is used to display Instagram pictures. The cutest way to hold on to the favorite memories of the year, share moments with family and friends and simply enjoy your life in square pictures.

9. Grow your own chilli kit
It's one of those perfect for every age gifts again. There's nothing like the joy of actually growing something with your own hands. Caring for a plant is proven to be a remedy for stress and eating out of it is pure delight.

10. Cookie cutters
Don't be a fool to underestimate the power of a few cookie cutters. The gift receiver might already have a lot at home, but some new shapes in bronze color never hurt anyone. It might actually make them want to bake a batch right now with their family or they even pick up baking again after forgetting what a joy it is. The result (cookies) is a gift that keeps giving when shared with friends and neighbors too.

11. Family calendar set
For all busy families, with conflicting schedules and all students sharing a house with roommates. Easy breezy planning and chore sharing process.

12. Heating set
The necessities for the winter presented in such a festive way makes for a great gift. Beautiful enough not to be hidden away and warm to keep one comforted. It will definitely be used and cherished.

13. Playing cards
A set of playing cards that comes with instructions on how to play different games will make for endless fun in the family. It will also be such a major entertaining base when guest come over. 

14. Saving kit
While being created for kids, I wouldn't mind using this one. It's genius because it teaches money management in such a simple way. Perfect for teaching the kids or for any adult that hasn't got his/her way around money yet.

15. Photo box frame
Photo frames get a bad rep and people usually hate them. This is not your usual frame. It's a box with five sides for pictures and one lid to open and put things in. A great way to keep all your loved ones together or to serve as a compilation of memories in photos and written notes hidden inside.

16. Meal planners
A necessarily planning tool for every household, designed in a simple eye-catching way will help people be organized and never have a headache on the "what to cook" matter again. The whole year will run so much smoother because of you.

17. Magnetic board game
Group games are the best and they provide even more pleasure when they involve physical effort. The board is magnetic, which means it won't get ruined fast and the game will be more intense and more exciting.

18. Elephant timer
While being a beautiful home accessory, this elephant is a modern timer. The receiver can use it to track their time or create their own version of the "pomodoro" technique altering their work time and fun time. Such a productivity booster!

19. Travel diary
This diary will be perfect for all travelers and those who dream of traveling. Some people might take advantage of your gift to start putting down memories from the last trips, while others will be inspired to book a ticket in order to fill the diary with interesting things.

20. "Laundry day" candle
It's the particular scent that makes this candle perfect for anyone. Smelling of fresh and light is great for days in need of calming and finding some peace. On the funny side, it can remind you that the laundry is overdue or it can actually substitute the actual process of doing laundry when you don't feel like it.

21. Picnic set
With the cold winter days ahead, staying in will be the normal activity. Gift this exciting set to be used for indoor picnics now and taken outside come Spring. Perfect for couples, families and when having friends over.

22. Little pig box
Every woman has tiny treasures they always misplace, so this beautiful box will come in very handy and will be proudly displayed in every bedroom.

23. Faux fur throw
Gift warmth and comfort with this luxurious throw. Pick a neutral color to go with everything and you'll be the reason behind many cuddles and movie marathons on the couch this winter.

I hope you find some inspiration and get motivated to tackle the last of your gifts for this season.

Have a festive weekend!


| Love, Lisa |

Monday, December 15, 2014

The best gift guides of 2014

Even though I like to hunt for presents all year long, I can't wait for the end of the year gift guides to be released. A lot of them feature sponsored content, so you get to spot a few items in every gift guide. But there are many bloggers who put thought and work into them, providing great ideas and new picks. Shops have been creating awesome gift guides the last years too, especially the online versions.
Here is a list of my favorite gift guides of 2014, a mix of blogger ones and retail productions.

Hope you enjoy browsing them and find some great ideas for your remaining gift giving marathon!

| Love, Lisa |
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