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June 29, 2020

Corona times - Working from home, my tips

As you may know, I've worked from home way before the Corona times and as in some cases working from home will be the new normal for at lest the next few months, here are some things that worked for me.
My windowsill office at the beginning of Corona Times

Change clothes

I know it seems like a small thing, but it does help. At the beginning I would spent the whole day in a pyjama or in some joggers and a t-shirt, often the ones I've slept in and changed them right before I went to bed. At some point I put on jeans to walk Luna and little by little I have a sort of the same routine as of someone going to an office all day. I wake up, change into other clothes, even if they are also joggers and t-shirt, and then open the laptop and start working. I think that at a mental level there is a switch and I feel like I separate more the working time from the home and family time.

Make a to do list

I am a big fan of lists, but this also works. I have my calendar with all the meetings and stuff to do for those meetings, but in my case I have a daily to do list and then a monthly to do list. My biggest satisfaction is to check things off the list. I put on my "to do" list even tasks outside of work, such as writing posts for my blog.

Have a dedicated office space

I have a desk with a pc. That is my working space. When I'm there I work and everyone in the house knows that I should not be, if possible, disturbed. My desk is in the living room, but you can have an office room or a windowsill as I did when my husband was as well working from home, or the ironing board in my laundry room when my zoom meetings should be private. It also helps to mentally separate the home world from the office world.

Maintain regular office breaks

Most of my friends say that they seem to work from home longer than at the office and that is because at home on one comes to your desk to have a chat, there are no lunch brakes and no cigarette or coffee brakes either. You also have to schedule those breaks. Now it is even better that my husband also works from home and we both sit for lunch, but at the beginning I skipped lunch a lot or I had a sandwich over the keyboard. That was wrong. Now I walk Luna down the street, 20 minutes, and that is my coffee break. 

Be very unyielding (had no idea that also meant firm) about office hours

So if you decide that at 6 p.m. your working hours are over then they are over. No more checking the office email, no more meetings, no more work. At the beginning I thought "so what if I have a little meeting?" "so what if I solve this one last email?". A small tip, no one expects a reply right away especially if they send that email after working hours. Working in an office building meant that at 8 p.m. the guards would come and kick you out, at home there are no guards, so you have to be very firm about working hours.

Be kind to yourself

We live strange times, so what if your kid makes an appearance on zoom? So what if during a meeting you go and help your kid or your dog with something? No one expects you to be office all day and if they do, it is not the right environment for you. We have lives outside the office and now that the office is home and everyone is also home, you will see my kid and dog, you will hear my husband or my neighbours, you will see my messy couch and my uneven paintings on the wall. It is my space and it says a lot about who I am. I personally don't like to work with people who have an empty wall behind their back. I like working with people who have book shelves with little knick-knacks as I have them, too. I love working with creative people who made an effort with their personal space.

Funny story my colleague works from his couch and at the beginning of the pandemic everything was neat and tight around him. Day by day he added things to that couch and now after three months of working from home you can't even see the couch anymore. :)

Also, one of my clients was so focused on a zoom call one day that she did not notice her son was painting the furniture in the background. The funny thing is we did not notice that either :)

As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

P.S. There is no rule of conduct on zoom, but if the person in front of you has the camera open, you should also keep the camera open. I've been in numerous calls presenting something and having no feedback from the audience. It is awful. 

June 25, 2020

Luxemburg - Ziua Iei 2020

Nu sunt multe de spus, anul ăsta nu am avut chef să port ie. E drept că anul ăsta ne-a cam ținut în casă, dar chiar și când am ieșit nu am avut starea necesară să port ie. I-am cusut Ilincăi o cămașă și pentru că mi-a fost milă să prăduiesc cănepa pentru dimensiunile unui copil de 4 luni am croit ca pentru un adult mai sighinaș și în consecință Ilinca innoată în ia ei, nu-i bai, o să o poarte mai încolo, dar eu m-am caznit că o voiam acum. Apoi cămașa mea de cânepă se tot destramă la gât și trag de ea și nu îmi stă, trebuie să îi schimb firul și uite că deja sunt doi ani de când o port așa stricată cum e. Cămașa Matisse e cămașa Matisse, nu prea iți vine să te duci la birou cu ea. Și uite așa, anul ăsta nu am purtat ii. Mai am, evident, cămășile din alți ani, cămăși adorate, mă uit la ele ca la stele, dar nu găsesc momentul să le port, nu am chef și basta.

Și uite așa a trecut jumătate de an de acum și eu dacă am purtat o cămașă de vreo două ori. Și vine Ziua Iei, însă e o zi a iei atipică, nu avem voie să ne strângem mai mulți în public, nici vorbă de autorizație să ne vedem în Piața Clairefontaine asa cum obișnuiam. Fără tragere am făcut un eveniment pe facebook și l-am populat cum m-am priceput mai bine, însă lumea nu a postat, nu au postat nici cei care ziceau că postează, sunt dezamagită, dar cumva îi înțeleg. Și pe mine mă traversează o lahamite de tot și toate, dacă nu aș fi pasionată nici nu ar conta ziua asta nici pentru mine.

Însă nu pot să nu remarc că mă fac greu înțeleasă sau că oamenii nu mai au chef să citească. Am spus, vă rog postați poze pe eveniment, au dat like la pozele postate, au dat like la text, dar sunt convinsă că nu l-au citit, nu au găsit 5 minute să posteze o poza, bună, rea, cu ie, fară ie... În fine, dacă eu nu mai organizez evenimente de ani buni, nu știu cine o face, și dacă eu nu știu deja că oamenii și-au pierdut răbadarea și atenția...

În schimb producția de poze și video și zoom pe Facebook a înflorit de Ziua Iei, cred că îmi va lua săptămâni să parcurg tot pe-ndelete. Asta e bine. Pandemia ne-a forțat să ne adaptăm și ne-am adaptat.

In fine, am reușit să mă văd cu fetele, am făcut și câteva poze, am vorbit, ne-am sfătuit, ne-am spus dorurile și durerile, pandemia asta ne-a lovit în mod diferit pe fiecare și ne-a afectat cumva pe toți, dar suntem sănătoși, continuăm.
Mustafa, proprietarul cafenelei unde ne facem noi veacul, și-a decorat terasa cu multe ghivece de flori. Este o cafenea/magazin de antichități specială și tot mobilierul e din povești. Nu e ceva de acolo să zic ca nu imi place sau nu își are locul.
De pandemie, cu masca mea din in comandată prin martie ajunsă la mine prin mai, insa la fix pentru ultimele zile de izolare
De pandemie
Nu aveti idee de când mă chinui să fac această poză în Luxemburg. Pe balconul de deasupra mea e motto-ul Luxemburgului, ”vrem să rămânem ceea ce suntem” apărut după cel de-al doilea război mondial. E o poveste acolo, poate v-o spun altă dată.
Cămașa Matisse în poate cel mai iconic loc din Luxemburg
Sânzienele din Luxemburg
Îmi place poza asta pentru că nu e perfectă, nu pozam, eram noi.
Cam asta a fost, mă găsiți pe Instagram la @mademoiselle.ralu sunt ceva mai activă acolo

June 16, 2020

Corona times - The new normal

Little by little our life has gone back to sort of a normal in the sense that the borders are open and we already met all our friends in Luxembourg, we even went shopping once in Germany and this weekend we will go to the Netherlands. From June 15th the flights from Brussels are slowly crossing again our sky, the last closed border, the one with France is open for non-essential travel, so life is somewhat on a track.

We still have to wear masks on the public transport and in the crowded places and outside social gatherings are limited to 20 persons (so this year the IA day will be online). Also, even though the flights to Romania have resumed, you still have to stay for 14 days in quarantine if you come from Belgium or Luxembourg and for us that is not an option.

So for the Summer the tourism will be local, but we have plenty of nice places to choose from so we are not complaining. It's been a while since I haven't written a Corona post so let's look at the pictures.

First, the weekly market in Arlon resumed and we went to it on one sunny day. I've remembered why I haven't been to a local market in Arlon for the past eight years so that was that. But when we left in the parking, my husband took this very dear to me photo of me and Ilinca in a tenderness moment. 
As soon as we could we went to Luxembourg for a stroll at the old places we love and the Melusina statue is one of those places. Not very friendly for people with strollers, but as my husband insists in taking one and not carrying our daughter, he had to deal with the bumpy pathways. 
We also discovered a nice trail with a gorgeous belvedere spot.
Of course I continued to make banana bread, now that I have the perfect outfit of this.
From now on I will always have toys in my pockets. 
Also I've restarted to slowly wear my Romanian blouses again. Since the Pompidou Paris trip  I haven't felt the desire to wear one, not even my hemp one. 
The Arlon authorities sent us fiber masks and vouchers to spent at local stores in an attempt to help the local economy. 
I've discovered this interesting artist, Martina Hoffmann from Berlin who handed out coloring pages for free and who has an interesting Instagram profile with gorgeous paintings for kids. Of course I've ordered some for Ilinca's room.
This year, I don't know if it was because people spent a lot of time inside or because of the unusual weather, all the flowers bloomed in amazing colors, especially poppies.
I don't know how these flowers are called, but they are blue and I love them
We even went for the first time to check out a castle we visited almost 8 years ago when we first moved to the area. The Beaufort Castle in Luxembourg. Last I've seen it, it was inhabited by sheep and the wind inside would sweep you of your feet. Now they worked on it and they give tickets at the entrance and Luna was not allowed. So we walked round it and went home.  
The meme of the period.
Actually, after wearing masks my face started to act up so I need some sort of a coloring BB cream, but I still can't wear any lipstick, not even the balms I was frequently using :(
Luna was reunited with the postman and is happy. She also wants every single thing Ilinca uses. That is Ilinca's pillow, but now they share it. 
Ilinca reading a book about the regal Romanian jewelry 
Me during the commute, in the train.
Also inside the train.
Favorite belvedere spot in Luxembourg
The progress I've made with Ilinca's Romanian blouse
We went for the first time since the pandemic started to the DM store in Germany and because I was with the trolley and my husband was with Ilinca's stroller be bought two hand creams. The biggest one is the one we finished during the lockdown, the middle one was picked up by my husband and the smaller one, by me. At least we both are optimistic that the "wash your hands for 20 second" period is over.
My blue flowers 
Nice flowers
On our walk recently we discovered a private castle. I took a picture of the imposing gate and can only dream about the actual castle inside.
The lavender is growing fast
Finally Ilinca has a children's book as she kept borrowing mine :)
As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 25, 2020

Corona times - Positive changes

This post is more for me than for the readers of this blog. I've been so depressed lately about not being able to physically see my friends in Luxembourg and the prospective of not being able to go to Romania this year at all and thus not seeing my parents and friends there, that I need a positivity boost.
I know people have died and are still suffering after Covid-19 and I do not mean any disrespect for them and the others in the front line, who worked hard these past three months under the threat of the disease, and being healthy and just wanting to meet other people might seem unbecoming, but this is my reality and I hope you ended up on this blog because you want to read about my very subjective reality.

1. First positive change has to be the shift in mentality towards people working from home. I am one of those people and I was long before Corona and every time I told someone I was working from home, they all without exception had the feeling that all I did all day was binge watching soap operas in my pyjamas. Well, now after three months of working from home and I don't know how many more still ahead, people got a glimpse of the challenges of working from home. Of having to be so organised not to drift towards loosing time, of forgetting to eat sometimes because no colleague messages you it is lunch time, of working long before the working hours and staying long after 6 pm and not because you have a deadline, but because as a freelancer when you have work is good, when you don't... For us Corona Times was a busy time, as communicators we were working non stop at the beginning, drafting strategies and shifting everything online. So much so, that for me, for us this time was so good we might have to consider another form of organisation, but it was done with three people working their but's off, day and night, learning along the way and adapting to the new norms to help their clients. So from a professional point of view I can't complain.

2. Second positive thing is that my husband got to see his daughter grow the first months and I did not have to do everything alone. And I'm sure this applies to a lot of families. The family time multiplied. Yes it was challenging, but it was (and still is, as I'm writing this we don't know for how long teleworking wold be a thing in Luxembourg) also very good for families, especially the ones with children. The pandemic came just after a month I gave birth to my daughter, and during this time she became very active, and now we have to keep her entertained 12 hours a day. If I had to do it all by myself, I would have hated the time and ended up hating her. So for us this time spent together was a blessing.
3. Third thing, online local shopping. There was a meme at the beginning of the lockdown which I think I've shared here, about my lifestyle being called a pandemic. So even before March 2020 I was buying most of my clothes and house stuff online. Part because I like and trust the Irish-UK style of clothing and their fabrics and the sizes are always on point, part because I hate shopping. During the pandemic I've tried as much as possible to shop locally and from small businesses who were trying to survive. And that was possible because they also adapted. When we first arrived to this area, which was only 8 years ago, they were not friendly with online anything. We had to find out about local events from posters, actual posters on the side of the road, Facebook events were unheard of and online stores were a dream from the future. Now, with the post working, there was nothing that stood in the way of helping the locals. So I've found out about a nice little book shop selling books in English, just across the border in Luxembourg, I've found nice and organic and fair groceries which got delivered to our door, I've found online children boutiques selling good quality toys and clothes.

4. Related to shopping, the large usability of cards. Everyone around me knows I don't carry cash. So every time I wanted a water from a machine I had to go to the ATM. Now even the machines selling 50 cents coffee have the possibility to pay by card, not to mention in the stores paying by card is mandatory or at least highly recommended. Now even the gas-station toilets have the card option. Need I say more?
5. Social distancing, which I do know is not the correct term, physical distancing from strangers is more to the point I want to make. I think that over the years my personal space got bigger, so on a queue for example I do not stay very close to the person in front. So much so, that here in Belgium people all the time cut in front of me, because they think I'm not queuing. Well, now that we have to be 1.5 metres apart, people hold their distance. I was dreading going to buy bred from the boulangerie (bakery) at Grand Frais Messancy. It is a small shop, with two points of entry and every time without exception people pretended I wasn't queuing and cut in front. Now one of the doors is closed, but even with it open, people respect the queue and the personal space. It is just an example, but for me this physical distancing from strangers is a good outcome.

6. Art became available online. Now that our life moved online I was able to interact with my favourite local artists and watched so many theatre plays I wasn't able to watch because they were in Bucharest or London and I was here. I think that artists (illustrators, actors, writers) were hit hard when our life moved online, but they had to adapt and I hope soon I will write a separate post about it. But illustrators opened their online stores on Etsy or on their personal webpages, they created Corona related art that I relate to and we are able to buy, they adapted and created clothing, but more about it soon. Actors turned to YouTube and improvised, entire theatre plays were streamed live. I read a novel written on Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and forums and it is genius.

7. As I've mentioned art, on the same spectrum, a lot of hands on classes had to go online and thus become available for people not living in one specific area. So one evening I was able to cook along a chef I admire in Luxembourg from my own kitchen. I've learned to take flat lays from a local photographer who never dreamed of teaching online, but had to adapt. I'm following the classes at the Fundatia Calea Victoriei in Bucharest and let me tell you, for two hours I am in another reality.

8. Maybe I should have mentioned it way up, but it only now came to mind, the process of going to a specialist simplified. Before Corona times when you needed a specialist opinion you had to go to your GP so set up an appointment which depending on how many patients the GP had could take days or weeks. Going there, explaining the thing and getting a prescription. With that you had to make another appointment to the specialist, which again could take weeks if not months. That was the procedure when there wasn't an emergency and when you still wanted to get your money back. During Corona most of the GP's worked online so in a matter of hours I had a Skype conversation with mine and had the prescription. Because it was a sort of an emergency (one of the tooth got infected or Ilinca had some nasty scabs on her head) we went directly to the specialist, online consultation on Skype, had the medicine sent to the pharmacy and we only went there and retrieved it. No unnecessary queue at the doctor's door and so on. I am aware it doesn't work like that, if you have a tooth infected you have to see a doctor, it doesn't work from Skype, but in my case I've started working on an implant before I've got pregnant, had to stop, but kept it under observation. So that is why my dentist was able to know it was infected over Skype.

9. Take away even from the snobbish and "fanciest" restaurants in Luxembourg, the restaurants where you needed 150 euros just to get through the door, now they do take away and believe me in that white or foil package if they sell you a pinch of food decorated with flowers you would see it. One of these restaurants I had my eyes on, but never justified the high prices started deliveries on the first days of the lockdown. Believe me now with just 50 euros we eat like princes. Another example, a "famous" chocolatier near Arlon, had impossible opening hours and you had to schedule way ahead a visit to his workshop next to his shop. Lockdown came and the famous chocolatier went out of hiding and personally delivered chocolate. I enjoyed his pralines over Easter, they are good, but not that great.

***

There are so many negatives of this time that I don'e even want to think about, but see there are some positives too. I've talked about not being able to see my family and friends, but also I was disappointed about not fitting in with my peers. I'm maybe old school, but for me the law is the law and there is no way around it. So even now I'm the village fool for not breaking the law. If the border with Luxembourg is closed to non-essential travel (that includes tourism and seeing friends) well that is what I did. Although I can go on a daily basis to Luxembourg to work and why not spent an extra time with my friends there, I've preferred to go just to retrieve my post and had a short meeting with a client.
Luxiland is renowned for turning even the purest soul into a snob, in the photo is the queue to Louis Vuitton store on the Grand Rue in Luxembourg on the first day they opened after the lockdown. I took the photo from an Expat Group. Who am I to judge what people do with their money? But this is a fine example of how the common mentality works in Luxembourg. Maybe it is a phenomenon to be studied by scientists, but for me I do not relate to that reality, I feel out of context, I do not have the same concerns as my peers. As I was enjoying my quiet family life, my peers were still thinking about the fanciest sushi, or travel, or tourism, because they were incapable of entertaining their kids without investing a lot of money. I have my like minded friends and colleagues, but they are just a few, the majority is after luxury goods, expensive fancy cars and houses, Michelin star restaurants and so on.
My reality is meeting friends at IKEA because we live in a capitalist world where people from Luxembourg can come to Ikea but not to Arlon :(
This week our life was the usual. Waking up, feeding Ilinca, working, playing, reading, working some more, walking a little in the evening, dinner and bed. This picture was from a trail we discovered just before the pandemic and went on when we were allowed to drive.
I'm not a massive fan of working out, but walking through the empty city to the Belvedere has to be considered something on the line of physical activity :) It's a plus when we get these sunsets. 
Also I don't know if I've mentioned it before here, but sine the beginning of March we had maybe five rainy days and as much as I enjoy the sunsets, I can't help thinking about the drought. Spring in the area was annoyingly moist and rainy and cold, so now I don't know what to fear most the virus or the famine? 
This is me working on Ilinca's Romanian Blouse. 
As much as I love wearing Romanian Blouses I dread making them. I know all or most of the techniques, I have the best fabrics, but I still don't find that peace in embroidery :(
Luna is fine, thanks for asking. She enjoys us being all the time at home and I fear the day when we will all be out.
The roses in the garden have bloomed. 
I must have the most unpretentious roses there are as I don't do anything to them and they have the most amazing flowers.
Sunset at Belvedere
At the rail station in Arlon along snacks there are masks and disinfectants.
So overall life is back to a sort of a normal, we still can't go to Luxembourg for non-essential stuff and the restaurants and terraces and cafes are still not open and gyms, pools and other indoor sports are yet not permitted, but soon, after June 8th they promise to loosen again the restrictions.
As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

May 18, 2020

Corona times - Final week of lockdown

Things are slowly getting back to normal, the stores are open, the museums are open and the kids have re-started school. We still work from home, from May 25th the European Institutions will probably decide to give up teleworking and only allow it on a voluntary basis.

There are 3930 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Luxembourg, in Belgium there are 54.989, 173.152 in Germany and 141.356 in France (Delano). As the burden on the health systems lessens, medics and academics have started looking into other diseases and complications this virus causes and my hope is they will concentrate on a treatment and maybe a vaccine. The reports of the effects this virus had on patients cured is horrific and I do believe we still don't know what we deal with.

In the meantime wearing a mask is strongly recommended as well a washing the hands and limiting as much as possible the human contact. I went to Ikea on Saturday and although not one second I felt in danger of getting the virus, this is no way of shopping. I was not a fan of offline shopping anyway,  but now more than ever I feel that I will stick to online. And speaking of Ikea, Belgium still hasn't opened its borders and the due date is 8 June, but we are on May 17th and people living in Luxembourg are able to cross the border to go to Ikea and Decathlon and the other shops in that area, but are not allowed to see their friends in Arlon. The border controls are set right after the Ikea highway exit. If you need more prove we live in a capitalist world, well this is it.

Rant over, let's look at pictures.
I will miss the walks we had through empty Arlon. Don't get me wrong, Arlon was pretty empty even before the lockdown, but people were in their cars. During the "corona times" people started walking, greeting strangers on the street, helping other people. I am afraid these human connections will be over once we no longer face a common enemy and we will again turn on each other, people with cars against people without, people with dogs against people without, English speakers against French ones, people with kids ... you get the point.
This too shall pass rainbows filled the windows of Arlon and not only Arlon, I've seen them online all over the world.
They again started putting commercial posters all over the city, even the Bauhaus one, in Luxembourg (on the bottom right corner of the photo) even if we are not allowed to go shopping in Luxembourg, for now. But somehow the #staysafe one is still there.
A lot of people asked about Luna. She is fine, I'm sure she will miss this time with daily long walks and both of us home, but she wants to see more people. Have I've told you at one point I've asked the postman to pet her? She is a very social dog.
During the lockdown my chocolate intake was over the limits, especially Milka wafers, but somehow I did not like the chocolate eggs we bought for Easter. So this week I've mixed them with roasted nuts and biscuits and created some sticky mass which reminded me of home made chocolate back in Romania. That was the last of the chocolate, I hope to quit this habit,  will let you know how it goes.
I've restarted working on Ilinca's Romanian blouse. I like the documenting process more than the embroidery one, but I'm committed to finish it by June 24th and that gives me a deadline. It will be too big for her this year, but I will of course post pictures and maybe create a dedicated post if I have enough information.
I will surely make an Instagram story if not an entire post about things I've found on that platform for kids at the local stores. Well I will say it here, there is a small bookstore in Luxembourg called Little English Bookworm selling books in English and I've made a purchase and got the package the next day. I think it was delivered by the bookstore owner, a lovely lady. We chatted about my book choices and I'm sure we will meet again as I plan to at least visit all these local small shops I've found in the area. So if you happen to read this and live in Luxembourg or Arlon, check her bookstore.
Have I've told you enough times the stores are opened? Well one of my favourite stores in Luxembourg and Arlon is Veritas. It attracted me, when I've first arrived in Luxembourg, because it sells craft materials and in particular beads. If you remember I was into jewellery making in Dublin. Well one day I went to Veritas in Arlon and all I've bought was a mask making kit :( 
My windowsill office. 
I've got so accustomed with it that even now I'm writing on my laptop, even if the desktop is free. 
Peonies
Somehow everyone I know in Romania loves these flowers, I'm not yet a fan. 
The Corona Times memes are getting better and better. Don't know about the sneaker as I was too little that time, but I do remember the dices and the dreamcatchers and I've seen a lot of people hanging their mask that way, too.
And that's it folks, hopefully the final week of lockdown. I hope the number of people getting Covid-19 will go down and we will be able to enjoy a sort of a Summer and most importantly I hope we will be able to go to Romania to visit our family. I miss my friends especially now that Luxembourg went out of lockdown two weeks before Belgium :( 
As usual you can find me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu I am more active there.
Raluca