A little corner of happiness

Sometimes, happiness can be found in the littlest places. You do not need much space to be happy as a friend of my discovered this past two months during the recent flooding in Bangkok. Happiness is something that for different people comes from a number of reasons. Even though this flooding was disastrous it actually brought a little happiness to some people.

Now, let me give you some background. My friend is usually is a lady who is extremely house-proud and will spend most of her waking energy looking after the house, cleaning and putting things in order. Yes, everything is top notch shining, bright and everything is set in its proper place. Not an inch too far to the right or to the left. She enjoys it and enjoys having a house that is always beautiful to look at. No trash left lying around. No shoes or books left where they shouldn’t be.

Then the flood came. Everything had to be moved to the second floor. Everything that was movable that is.

Everything was stacked on top of each other (in an orderly way of course) and the second floor ended up looking like it was a furniture warehouse. There was hardly any space to walk around nor move. Only the sofa provided some seating. The ground floor, on the other hand, looked like it was a newly constructed house with nothing but a few plastic chairs and a table left below. Even the curtains were removed.

Yet up there on the second floor, my friend found a little corner of happiness. Sitting on her sofa amidst the towering stacks of furniture and decorations, my friend sat there smiling. Smiling because she was happy. Smiling because the whole family was home and smiling because she did not have to spend the day doing any house work. No putting things in order, no rearranging the furniture or the decorations, and no grocery shopping. (Being without car and supermarkets were mostly out of stock.)

It was indeed a happy time for my house-proud friend.

She got to rest and relax. In a tiny little corner of the furniture warehouse, she sat there resting, reading, watching television and feeling not in the least guilty that she had to be responsible for looking after the house. Having no obligations, she was happy. Now that all is over, my friend is back to being the person she was before the flood, running around and getting exhausted.

Happiness can indeed be found in the strangest places. Where are you happy ? Do you know what makes you happy? If you do, why don’t you recreate the happiness more often? Happy Holidays! ūüôā

A closet too big

I want to write about so many things, but I cannot do it all in one night so today I thought I’d write about a little revelation I had today. It has to do with clothes. Yes, girls never have enough clothes, shoes bags and accessories.¬† We love our little fashion items and do not hesitate to buy more even though we have closets full of similar stuff at home.¬†¬† Then we run out of space and need more.

Today I went to pick up a suit I had made.¬†¬† On the way out,¬† I passed by some stores and spotted several nice dresses.¬† Thinking to myself that I am always wearing the same style of clothes, a dark skirt and a shirt,¬† I thought to myself that I should get something different.¬† (I suppose that’s the excuse I give myself.)

I went in and tried on dresses, pants and shoes.  I eventually bought myself a dress and a jacket. Yes, I now have something new for this holiday season. I am happy.

Upon returning home, as I always do when I get something new, I decided to take out something old from my closet and put it in the bag for donation.   As I started going through my closet, an idea struck me.

I will rearrange my closet into outfits so that it is easier and faster for me in the morning.

(I do this before going to run, but I have never done it for my entire closet.  Some of you might have already thought of this, but this is a new thing for me. How do you organize your closet?)

No longer would I sort my clothes according to type and colour:¬† Pants, shirts, t-shirts, etc… white, black… Arranging my closet this way resulted in me always grabbing any old shirt and a skirt that matched.¬†¬† I dressed almost the same week after week.¬† I wore what was convenient. ¬†¬†Black skirt and a shirt.¬†¬† My weekend clothes would be jeans and a t-shirt.¬†¬† How boring.¬† I started getting bored of myself.

The revelation that came to me through all this was not about putting clothes into outfits, but that I had so much clothing, just work clothes alone, I had enough outfits to last me five weeks!

This means that for five weeks (with five working days each) I would not repeat a dress, a suit, a skirt, a shirt, a cardigan, a scarf nor a belt.  I even had shirts to spare.

For someone who always felt like she did not have enough clothes, especially work clothes, this is a HUGE revelation. For the first time I realize do have enough work clothes.¬† I can dress everyday without repeating my clothes and best of all, I can wear and utilize my more expensive clothing.¬† My nicer clothes had previously been saved for “special” days but those do not come that often so I might as well just take them out and enjoy them before they get old!

Weekend clothes?¬† I could go many months without repeating. Different styles too. Not just jeans and a t-shirt. It’s crazy. I have too much clothing.

After today, I think I will continue to arrange my closet by outfits.  This way I know what clothes I need and what needs to be donated.  I hope it works!  (This has also literally put a stop to any excuse I have to keep on shopping.)

This holiday season, why don’t you go through your closet and see how much you have? (You might be surprised!) Take out old clothes that haven’t been touched or don’t fit anywhere and donate them to those less fortunate.¬† Happy Holidays everyone!

Myth 8: Seal Juices into Meats by Searing

Let’s forget floods tonight and talk about cooking.¬† If you are a cook, and cook meat, then you are bound to have heard this, “Seal in the juices by searing meats before you cook.”¬† For the non-cook, what does this mean?¬† It means basically to fry or expose the outer layer of meat to high temperatures before baking, or continuing to cook it.¬† My family does it, and so do my aunts.¬† I thought it made sense.¬† You cook the outer layer first, so that the raw juice would not be able to come out.¬† It’s like one of those know hows that gets passed down from generation to generation.¬† Lifehacker says this is not so.¬† Here’s why.

The article says that this was first proposed in the 19th century by a German chemist called Justus von Liebig who said that applying very high temperatures to meat would create a “sealed” layer of cooked meat through which liquid the inside meat would not be able to escape. (Wow, I didn’t realize this would go back so long ago!)

Anyways, there is a problem with his experiment in that he compared the liquid and nutrients from a piece of meat that was submerged in cold water. It was then heated, simmered.  This was compared to a dry piece of meat which was applied to an extremely hot surface.  If you think about it, of course the fried meat would be juicier than the one boiled to death..

That’s not all, another book called “On Food and Cooking” by Harold McGee compares a seared piece of meat and un-seared meat cooked identically.¬† He says that the seared piece of meat actually retained fewer juices than the un-seared piece!¬† Searing, according to him, has no effect!

There goes my belief in sealing in the juices.  What this tells you is to question what you hear and what you are told.  Just because a good cook tells you something, it may not always be true.

When you hear a good tip, try it yourself and see what works best.¬† Searing, I think, may have an added benefit in that it gives the meat a little more taste than if it had not been seared. The crispy outer layer ūüôā¬†¬† As for the juices?¬† You have to just test it yourself.¬† Let me know when you find out! Happy cooking!

As free as the wind blows

Today is my free Sunday and it is an especially special one for I have not an¬†appointment in the world today.¬† There is no place I have to be, nothing I have to go out and get, no one I have to go meet, it’s a totally free free Sunday.¬† I have no plans, and I don’t want any. Not today anyways.¬† I think free days like this everyone should have every now and then.¬† It works wonders for the soul and mind.

Most days I wake up and already have a list of things I have to get done.¬† In fact, I know what I have to do tomorrow before I go to bed the night before so I can plan my wake up time and sleep time.¬† I think about things I have to get done for work, deadlines, things to follow up on and etc…¬† Then there are personal things you have to get done, like running, bills to be paid before a certain date or reservations to be made.¬† If I have to go somewhere, I have to work backwards and plan the departure time and get ready time so I can get to the appointment on time.¬† It’s tiring.¬† The brain must constantly keep track of these things.

My iPhone helps. I write things down, add alerts and put them in my calendar.¬† Still I have to check every morning for things you have to finish doing or appointments that have to be kept.¬† There is no free time to just decide that maybe I want to take a nap now and maybe I just want to sit and read a good book that’s gathering dust on my shelf.¬†¬† Maybe I just don’t want to do anything and curl up on the couch with a good DVD.¬† Maybe I won’t do anything. Nothing. Nada.

The best part is that it is up to me.¬† The choice is up to me whether I want to do it now or maybe in another hour or so when I feel like it.¬†¬† Maybe I might go out to starbucks if I feel like it.¬† Maybe I won’t.¬† This is the luxury of having a free day.¬† Being free and being able to just decide our own day is indeed refreshing.¬† If you are feeling tired, feeling abit overstretched as if you are trying to be a superwoman or a superman who can handle every task in this world, I say take a day off.¬†¬† Allot a day when you don’t have any appointments, or things you have to do.¬†¬† Take a day for yourself.¬† It wonders wonders for the soul and mind.¬† Happy Sunday!

A decade of memories……or junk?

After a decade of living in this apartment, I am moving house.¬† It feels surreal as I go through my belongings and throw away things I’ve kept for far longer than I should have.¬† Moving is good.¬† It keeps one energized and¬†stimulated eventhough it’s so tiring you forget where your days went.¬† Moving gives us an opportunity to go through our things and throw away the “excesses” and things that are no longer functioning.

Moving this time I’ve learnt that I am a great hoarder of plastic bags, paper bags and now canvas bags.¬† You name it. I have every kind of bag you could possibly want.¬† I’ve got the tiniest paper bags to the biggest plastic bag you’ve ever seen. I got bags from different countries, continents¬†and different designs.¬† Different versions from the same shop even.¬† Wow, I wonder if I am saving them to have a museum of shopping bags?

I am not going to collect them anymore though.¬†¬† I’ve learnt my lesson.

I bought some large black garbage bags this time and they are wonderful.¬†¬†As Alex says, once you throw things inside them, you never¬†see it again so it doesn’t tempt you to take it out and mourn over it.¬†¬†I’ve used about half a dozen so far.

I filled up one entirely with my bag collection. Others with magazines, letters, bills.¬† I realize I’ve killed many trees in my lifetime. I hope some of this trash gets recycled.¬† Others I fill with cassette tapes.¬† That’s right..Cassette tapes and vdos.¬† Ten years ago, we still used them to listen to music. Now everything is on mp3 and mp4.¬†¬†Movies on DVD.¬† I don’t even have a cassette tape player anymore and my vdo machine hasn’t been used in years.¬† Instead I just have an ipod filled with over a thousand songs.¬† I love it.

After all this, my tip to everyone is to at least once a year, buy some large black garbage bags and go through your drawers, shelves, coffee tables and closets.¬† Throw out things you have not touched in at least a year.¬† As one my readers recommend, put them into a box, label them with a date and if you don’t find yourself needing anything from it after a certain period of time, throw it away!

Don’t keep everything just for memory sake like I do! The memory is in your head…if you keep everything, you won’t be able to find it when the need arises.¬† Happy cleaning!

De-Clutter and De-Stress!

Earlier today I read an article in the New York times entitled “Organize This” and in my attempt to organize all my accumulated treasures and some not so treasures, I found the article extremely interesting.¬† It tells of a how a certain Barbara Reich whizzes into a doorman apartment, clears, throws and organizes¬†away piles of belongings of the rich and wealthy.¬† Three hours later she is $450 richer and has more than a dozen garbage bags.¬† I think its awesome.¬† It’s an awesome job for Barbara, and it’s awesome to have a house organized and de-cluttered.

Clutter equals stress and by helping people organize their things, she helps them reduce stress.¬†¬†Of course if you can afford her $150 rate, go for it.¬† For the rest of us, who are not so well off, I guess we just have to do the de-cluttering ourselves and relieve ourselves of unecessary things.¬† I’ve been trying to de-clutter my apartment for weeks, months and¬†years but to no avail.¬†

I buy boxes to store my things, then they get stored so well, I never open them again.¬† Some boxes I have not opened in years, but when I do, I can’t seem to throw anything out.¬† They have memories.¬† I have my things from college neatly stored in lovely containers and my box of colored pencils and markers still in order since the fourth grade.¬† I still use them occasionally.¬† It’s been over two decades since I was in the fourth grade.¬† I store things too well.

After reading the article, today I was able to de-clutter a few of my belongings.  I just grabbed them, put them in a large bag and took them out before I could stop my myself from mourning over its lost and thinking how wasteful it is to throw away things in perfectly good condition. 

It felt good.¬† It felt good to declutter and get some space back into my life.¬† Some more breathing space.¬† I can’t believe why I kept that movie ticket for so long or that broken gadget.¬† I know I’d never use it again but it just never got thrown out.¬† It just sat there neatly in a corner.

So if you have time this weekend, de-clutter, throw out things you don’t need, donate and de-stress.¬† Having a¬†clean and ordering place is certainly less stress!¬† ¬†It’s a great way to start the year!

Storage Tip: Earrings and Cufflinks

Happy Friday ūüôā It’s the first Friday of the month, and the first Friday of 2011.¬†Somehow¬†I feel like it has¬†already been a few months since the New Years.¬† There is so much to do.¬† This year also¬†sounds futuristic and as¬†if it came from a sci-fi movie.¬† Nevertheless, it¬†is here and ready for us to embrace.¬† The office opposite my building is certainly embracing it.¬† For a few hours now, they have been partying with food, music and dancing. It sounds fun.¬†¬†

The New Years is also a time for us to get organized and clean up our living space.¬† I’ve been trying to clear up my accumulated junk, but the pile seems to come out from Mary Poppins’ bag.¬†¬†Once¬†I take things out of drawers and shelves, they suddenly blossom and grow in size.¬†I have piles of things I have to donate, piles of things waiting to go into storage, and piles of things I have to sort.¬† The piles of things to sort is just so large sometimes I wonder if I’d every finish it this lifetime.¬†

I suppose I just have to one day take out a large black garbage bag, hold my breath and throw things in without a second thought.¬† It’s the memories of things that make it hard for us to throw away.¬†¬†¬† So in the process of doing all this,¬† I am also finding smarter ways to store my things.¬†

Today I want to share a great way to store earrings. For guys reading this, it could serve as a great way to store cufflinks or other small tie pins.  I used to hang earrings on little stands, but they got dusty.  No good.

Now, I found these plastic boxes at the department store and they are sectioned into lovely little squares, perfect for a pair of earrings.¬† They are also lined with foam so that your earrings don’t get scratched.¬†¬† It’s only around 130 THB for a box big enough to hold 27 pairs.¬† They also have smaller boxes with 14 sections available.¬†¬† Oh, and if you go to the Export-Import Fairs that are held twice a year in Bangkok (BIG +BIH at Impact Arena) you can get these boxes at really good deals!

Okie, that’s all for today folks! If you have other great ways and ideas in which to store things, please share with us!¬† I’m always eager to hear how I can better store my junk!

“Home” Is Where The Heart Is

After two weeks roaming around Singapore I have to say I am happy to be¬†home. Although I enjoy going around and exploring new places, trying out new dishes and meeting friends, nothing beats¬†the warmth of being back home surrounded by family and loved ones.¬† Even if we don’t meet everyday, somehow the thought of being in the same city is reassuring.¬† It’s warm and I feel fortunate to have such a lovely family.

It’s funny when you look back on years past.¬† There was a time when I would want to go away for weeks on end and not miss a thing.¬† Life was fun and I was young. ¬†Now, I can feel the years creeping up on me ever so quietly and I find myself saying “I miss home. I miss my family.”

“Home” for me has always been a funny thing.¬† I remember being asked on countless occasions what I considered “home” since I moved country every couple of years.¬† I wasn’t really “Thai” becaused I hardly lived there and I was hardly a citizen of any other country.¬† I had grown up in Switzerland, Belgium, Poland and the US.¬† I was a traveling citizen of Earth.¬† Where was my home?

And so my definition of “home” has always been a simple one and one that I still hold dear.¬† For me, home has always been where my heart is.¬† Home is where my family lives.¬† Home is where all whom I treasure and love¬†reside.¬† Everything else is just exernality.¬†¬†It’s the family that makes any place¬†“home.”¬† It’s not the house nor the country, nor the belongings.¬† Nothing materialistic. ¬†¬†“Home”¬†is where my heart is.¬†

What do you consider your home? What is your definition? Please feel free to share ūüôā