Sunday, January 31, 2016

January chic list

Hey guys, how is your weekend going so far? I'm signing in on an odd day to update one of my favorite blog series: the highlights of my month. Even if I have to admit that this time, putting together my list was a lot harder than usually.

January was hard. Really hard. After the glorious weeks of Christmas & New Year's farniente, I had the hardest time getting back into the swing of things, and adjusting once again to our crazy work schedule. Then, in mid-January, someone very very close to me had a health scare that left me terrified and worried. I was constantly feeling like I was spinning my wheels, and being pulled in so many different directions, I was unable to find a clarity and focus necessary to move forward. And to top it all off, just last Thursday, I finally mustered the courage to end something that had been eating away at my usual patience, bringing me too much worry and self-doubt. It was both heartbreaking, but also kind of liberating. For the first time in weeks I feel like so much of my brain power has been freed to focus on all the things that truly matter to me!

All in all, I'm not really sad to see January go - quite the contrary. I'm pretty excited about what February has in store, and I'm prepared to take full advantage of its 29 days - anyone else as excited that we get to enjoy one extra day in 2016? I have some great things lined up on my February editorial calendar, but before I explain it all in my tomorrow's post, let us have a look at all the things that made me happy in January. Due to the reasons listed above, it took some serious digging through my iPhone photos and journal entries. But in the end, I managed to find quite a few highlights that made this first month of 2016 more beautiful and enjoyable.

Images via: one // two // three // four // five

So without further ado, in January I was...

...making some huge changes to this blog. This little space of mine has got a major overhaul. Macarons and Pearls were laid to rest, and the red carpet was rolled out for The Charming Avenue, and its new content and focus. I couldn't be happier with the results, and I'm also extremely thankful for all your words of encouragement and kind comments. I really hope this blog will continue to be the source of inspiration to us all.

...buying my first car. After investing in my apartment, buying my own car was the next logical step in my quest for personal independence. And I'm beyond happy to report that this month I've become a proud owner of a lovely little Skoda Fabia. It's the perfect city car - small enough to fit even in the tiniest parking slots, but also lively enough to make my occasional long business trips more enjoyable. I'm already looking forward to all the amazing travels we'll go on together! I think I'm in love :)

...working out daily. Seriously, guys, I haven't missed a single day, which, to me, is really huge. I used to get all excited about exercising, work out for ten days, and then promptly move on to something else. This time however, I'm making conscious effort to put my fitness on top of my list of priorities, and I can already see the positive effects it has on my mood and my energy levels. Cheers to keeping up with my new routine!

...drinking smoothies. Together with my new workout routine, I've also been trying to make more healthy choices when it comes to food and nutrition. And I fell completely under the spell of smoothies. Fruit smoothies, green smoothies, smoothie name it, I love it. I've been experimenting with various kinds of fruit and veggies (persimmon and pomegranate were a huge hit, and on the contrary, mango was the biggest fail) and I'm having so much fun coming up with a different flavor combo for every day!

...listening to Life lately podcast. I've already raved about it here, but I have to repeat myself: if I had to choose just one podcast to listen to till the end of my days, it would be this one. Yes, I'm that hooked. Clara and Brooke are among the most intelligent and inspiring women I have discovered in the blog world, and each and every episode is filled to the brim with thoughtful advice, healthy dose of humor and so much inspiration for your life and career! I just wish there were a new episode every day!

...baking orange cranberry muffins. I haven't baked muffins in forever, and when I finally decided to make them again, I couldn't pick a better recipe than this one. It's seriously the best flavor combo I've tasted this month. I just wish I could have fresh cranberries on hand more often to experiment with them even more.

...journaling daily. This was one of the habits I've wanted to develop for a long time, and I think I've finally found the perfect stride. Each morning, after my stretching and yoga routine, I make myself a cappuccino and sit down with my daily log to record all the highlights and lowlights of the previous day, transferring my random iPhone notes on paper. It's been a fun exercise for my brain, but also an exercise in gratitude, since I always make sure to write down at least three things that I'm grateful for that day.

...reading Divergent trilogy again. I picked it up from my bookcase on a whim, and reread it with a great pleasure, before the last movie in the series comes out later this year. But I have to confess that I still hated the ending, just as the first time I read it. I'm really curious to see how they will spin it in the movie version!

Now it's your turn: tell me about your January highlights! What made you happy? Do spill the beans, I would love to know!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekend notes & link love #34

I've already mentioned several times that creating focus is one of my biggest challenges. I often feel like my mind is pulled into way too many directions, and I don't know how to stop my brain from being all over the space. I loved reading Bonnie's tips on how she gained a laser sharp focus for 2016. I'll be definitely taking notes! (via B is for Bonnie design)

Have you heard about that myth that entrepreneurs never sleep? Well it's just that - a myth, and a stupid one for that matter. Entrepreneur or not, you should never feel guilty for sleeping! (via Entrepreneur)

I love companies that have a mission and support cases close to their heart, so I was happy to discover the Bright planet beauty products, thanks to my friend Rowena. The products sound lovely, and the fact that buying them will help feed hungry children, makes them even better! Definitely worth giving a try! (via Rolala loves)

Really good and inspiring books on writing may be hard to find, so I always love a good recommendation. Meg's review of Stephen King's On writing really has me intrigued, and I'm promptly adding it to my reading list. (via Meg Biram)

And a few things you might have missed on The Charming Avenue:

Remembering Paris - the city in which I left my heart.

A few words on my concept of sentimental ingredients, and a roundup of shallot recipes.

7 things currently on my wishlist.

My struggles with planning and organizing my time, and the possible solution in bullet journal

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inspired by: Bullet journal

All images: Kara Benz, via Bullet Journal

I have this weird relationship with planners. I love them. But I also sometimes don't know what to do with them. I love flipping through them, I get excited about their various features, I may sometimes purchase more than one for a given year, and yet, I'm always feeling like I'm not using any of them effectively and to their fullest potential.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those hoarders who amass planners by dozens, keeping them in their drawers, but never actually using them, for fear of spoiling them, or whatever. Quite the contrary: my planner gets his fair share of daily use, but I always feel like I'm not using it to my best advantage. And what's worse, I'm not using it in the most effective way to help me with my scattered mind.

Also, my problem with all those pretty planners (whether bound or printable) out there is, that with each and every one of them I always feel creatively stifled. There's never enough space for my own true self to express itself. There are dozens of various tasks I need to accomplish each day, pertaining to our business, to my blog and to my personal life, and I need to log them all in one neat space. I also rarely get to use any prefabricated daily categories (like food log, phone call log or savings log) that always take up too much valuable space in any given planner. What I need is the blank space to create and define my own categories.

And if there's one thing I currently need the most, it's getting my stuff and my act together in all my areas of interest. See, right now I'm using this bonkers organizational system, where I have a separate notebook for everything: a daily planner for my work, blog and personal tasks and events, a "brain dump" notebook where I download all my random ideas and inspiration, a blog binder with my editorial calendar and blog post master list. I also have my daily logbook & gratitude journal, a book journal, a goal binder, and I could go on and on... Believe me, it's really as crazy as it sounds. There are notebooks literally strewn all over my apartment, and at any given moment, your can find at least three of them in my purse or on my desk. It's getting ridiculously out of hand, and I feel like I'm not able to keep up with this anti-system anymore.

What I really need is a pen-and-paper system that will bring all this mess together, and define one neat little cohesive space that would help me create that elusive, but much needed focus and peace of mind. A planning system that will be flexible, easy to work with, visual and creative. Just like me :)

And just when I thought that I'd need to create that system myself, I stumbled upon Kara's Boho Berry blog, and her gorgeous Bullet journal, and I immediately felt that tingle of excitement that accompanies the sudden stroke of inspiration. And I fell down the rabbit hole: I've spent the past two days researching this concept and falling in love with all its glorious possibilities. If you've never heard of bullet journal before, or want to get a better idea of how it works, be sure to check the original Bullet journal blog.

I've decided to give this system a try for a month - for the time being, I'll use a random grid notebook (no need to invest in any fancy gear before I actually see if it can work for me), and I'll definitely work on my hand lettering and doodling abilities. I'm really excited and curious to see how it works out!

Now that I've confessed my planner struggles, I would love to know: what system do you use to manage your time and stay on top of all your tasks? Are you more of a tech or an analog kind of girl? And have any of you ever tried the bullet journal? If so, to what results? Do spill the beans in the comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Currently on my wishlist, #4

For the past two years I've been living on a kind of a spending ban. First I was saving up for my apartment, then I was renovating it, and by the end of last year, I finally finished furnishing it with the biggest furniture pieces. I won't exaggerate when I say that it was an extremely costly project - and since I was mostly financing it all by myself (with a help from my parents), all other spending was put on hold.

I'm still trying to live more frugally than before, since I have a debt to repay to my parents and I want to do it as soon as possible, but that doesn't prevent me from daydreaming, and from scouring my favorite shops for the best new things that strike my fancy. These are a few things currently living on my wish list: 

one: Diptyque RosaViola candle. I've always had this irrational love for fancy and expensive candles. I remember that when I joined the family business (and started getting regular paychecks again), one of the first things I bought was this candle. It may sound silly, but to me, it was a confirmation that I was financially independent again, and if I decided to shell out €50 for a single candle, I could, and no one would stop me. And I still have the empty jar and use it as a brush holder. So, given my love for Diptyque and color pink, I could only fall in love with this new limited edition, created in collaboration with Olympia Le Tan. 

two: Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose body polish. I love body scrubs, and use them regularly, especially in winter, when my skin gets all dry. I've heard a lot of great things about this brand, and would love to try one of their products. Plus, I'm a sucker for pretty packaging!

three: Lily & Val Cosmopolitan print. No matter the current trends or fads, Cosmopolitan will always be my cocktail of choice. I still remember fondly those I drank on my trips to New York. And this chalkboard print is so pretty, and such a lovely idea! There are many more prints to choose from, and they could make for a great collection.

four: West Elm decorated Hobstar glassware. I can never have enough tumblers, especially when they are decorated with pretty patterns in gorgeous hues. I love both the black and green one here.

five: Harry Potter coloring book. No explanation needed, really. I'm such a huge Harry Potter fan, and I've been wishing to find more time in the evenings for coloring - it's one of my favorite ways to de-stress! A Harry Potter coloring books sounds like the perfect gift!

six: Austin Kleon: Steal like an artist Journal. I'm the biggest sucker for stationery, journals and notebooks. While it's true that my iPhone rarely leaves my side, when it comes to taking notes, crossing things off my to do list or journaling, nothing beats my trusted pen an paper. Considering that I love pretty much everything that Austin produces, I'm sure I would be obsessed with this journal!

seven: Ila Black lava salt. I've discovered this one via Victoria, and I was immediately intrigued. I've never heard of black salt before, and I've been wondering about it's taste and dreaming up possible uses in my kitchen. And again, the packaging is so pretty, sleek and elegant!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Recipe roundup: Shallots

I have this list of what I call "the sentimental ingredients" - ingredients that make me remember people I love, places I've been to and memories I've made. Since I love food so much, I tend to associate many important memories with dishes I ate or ingredients I used in my kitchen at the time. And when I think of shallots, I always remember my beloved late grandma. She grew them in her garden and she used them a lot in her cooking, which was heavily influenced by her years spent living in France. It really makes me sad that we never got to actually cook together, because she left us too early. I'm sure we would have had tremendous fun in the kitchen together, and I could have learned so much from her...

But back to shallots now. Funny thing is, my mom never really used them in the kitchen, so they quietly slipped away from our table. It wasn't until my first summer as an au-pair in France, that I rediscovered this special variety of onions. Madame T., for whom I was working at the time, taught me one of the easiest but also the most delicious saffron chicken recipes, and shallots were one of its signature ingredients.

When I came back home and made the same recipe for my parents, mom immediately came up with the idea of planting the shallots again, this time in our own garden. Fast forward to the last fall, when we harvested our biggest load of shallots yet. We still have so many left, but after a few months, I grew quite bored with my old ways and recipes. And so my hunt for the next best shallot recipe begun. Now I'm bringing you the roundup of the ones that caught my eye and that I'll be experimenting with in the upcoming weeks. And I would love to know, do you ever use shallots in your kitchen? If so, what is your favorite recipe?

Images via: Food for my family // A beautiful plate // Williams Sonoma // Honestly Yum

Caramelized shallot and gruyere quiche with rosemary crust. This quiche is bound to send me into a flavorful food coma. Rosemary crust sounds lovely in and of itself, but throw caramelized shallots and gruyere in the mix, and you have just the perfect dish for a cozy winter evening at home. (via Food for my family)

Roasted fingerling potatoes with tarragon-shallot butter. From what I've read so far, shallots pair really well with tarragon, so I'm eager to give this combo a try. Plus, I'm a fan of easy, simple dishes that pack a major flavor punch, and this one fits the bill perfectly. (via A beautiful plate)

Cheddar and ale soup. This one caught my eye immediately. I've never had a cheddar soup before, so this cheese paired with ale and crispy shallots really has me intrigued. (via Williams Sonoma)

Caramelized shallots. This is originally an Ina Garten recipe, so it's bound to be delicious. It marries sweet and savory flavors with the tanginess of balsamic vinegar. Served with or without a slice of roquefort cheese, this would make for a lovely side dish. (via Honestly Yum)

Images via: Home & plate // Girl versus dough // Pinch of yum // Eats well with others

Compound butter with garlic, shallots and herbs. This one falls into the "gift for the foodie in your life" - and I can very well see myself making it guessed it, myself :) Truth is, I've been reading a lot about compound butters, but I've yet to try making them in my kitchen. This could be a great place to start! (via Home & plate)

Caramelized shallot and mushroom quiche. You can put almost anything in a quiche, and I'm bound to love it. Because hello, flaky crust, and rich and satisfying filling! And don't even get me started on those caramelized shallots! Comfort food at its best. (via Girl versus dough)

Caramelized shallot & grape chutney. As far as appetizers go, this one looks and sounds beyond amazing! Grapes and shallots make for an original pairing, and this could very well be the hit of my next dinner with friends. (via Pinch of yum)

Eggplant burgers with honey-beer caramelized shallots. And here are those caramelized shallots again. I can hardly imagine a better place for them to be than on top of this glorious eggplant burger. No, scratch that. The best place for them all to be would be in my belly. right. this. moment. (via Eats well with others)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Remembering Paris

Image by Pedro Gadhra via Unsplash

Paris will always be the love of my life. And no, I really don't care if that sounds cheesy. Men may come and go, relationships may begin and end, but as Humphrey Bogart famously put it in Casablanca, "We'll always have Paris."

My love affair with Paris began almost 16 years ago, when I visited it for the first time as part of a high school trip. At the time, I was a true ingénue, wide-eyed and innocent, ready to explore the world in all its glory. Paris was the first city I ever visited without my parents, and I still remember how much fun my friends and I had, exploring the city, learning about its history and making as many memories as humanly possible. Little did I know then, that Paris would one day become the city that would change me and my life in the most profound ways.

Fast forward 7 years, my BA in international relations fresh in my pocket, I was standing with my huge suitcase in my teeny tiny Parisian dorm room, bidding goodbye to my parents and to my life as I knew it - comfortable and quite predictable. I was feeling so excited and confident in my future!

I spent almost four years of my life in Paris. I earned my Master's there while working as an au-pair (almost losing my mind in the process). I had to learn to fend for myself, to rely solely on my own strength and capabilities, because there was no one else to help me (at least not in the beginning). In all those months, I learned more about myself that I'd ever thought possible.

Image by J. Ahrndt via Unsplash

In Paris I laughed, cried, danced and got drunk, missed the last métro and walked home, wandered the streets after the sunset, loved, felt free, happy and confident. I've tasted my first macaron at Ladurée, and I ate more crispy baguettes than I could count. I learned to appreciate good wine and savor French cuisine. I developed an unexpected love for shrimp, and I never quite got over my first encounters with the goat cheese (random facts, I know). I made a friendship there, that I'll cherish forever. I learned to be strong and independent when there was simply no other option. I observed people and took notes and lessons on that infamous Parisian chic and joie de vivre. And I mastered what I'll always consider to be the most beautiful language in the world - French.

In short, I became a grown up in Paris. And it will forever be my happy place - even though I left it behind 4 years ago and moved on to my new life. I still make it a priority to schedule regular visits to this city I once called home. Maybe the time has come to start looking at the plane tickets again!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one. Do you have a city or a place that completely stole your heart? Why is that? What makes it so special to you?

This post is part of a #ileftmyheartin blogger campaign. All opinions are my own. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekend notes & link love #33

It seems that everyone is doing podcasts these days - some of them are good, some less so, and there are a few that are truly excellent. Clara and Brooke's Life Lately definitely belongs to the latter: I listened to all 6 episodes in one sitting, and walked away feeling inspired, rejuvenated and with a new resolve to tackle my dreams and big plans. (via Life Lately)

And while we're on the subject of podcasts, the New York Times announced this week that they were turning their popular column, Modern Love, into a podcast, too. Since this is one of my favorite reads ever, I can hardly wait to see (or rather, to listen) to what it's all about. (via The New York Times)

I'm usually guilty of downloading way too many apps on my iPhone, and never quite checking them out properly, so one of my goals is to really start using them to make my life easier and learn new things. This list is a great place to start! (via Waiting on Martha)

A few easy steps to make you feel happier at home. Definitely worth a try! (via Camille Styles)

Staying focused and on track when it comes to accomplishing my tasks is one of my biggest challenges. My mind and my thoughts tend to be all over the place, and it's something I really need to deal with this year, if I want to get things done. I'll be sure to try Hitha's tips! (via Hitha on the go)

And a few things you might have missed on Macarons and Pearls:

My favorite quotes to inspire me when I'm in a slump.

A few things currently inspiring me.

Chocolate, caramel and walnut tart aka the sweet bomb,

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quotes to inspire your January (and well beyond)

It may be hard to believe, but we are already more than halfway through the first month of 2016 - does the time really have no intention of slowing down? Tell me, how are your new year's goals and resolutions going? Have you made any significant progress, or have you been struggling with your new January schedule?

I have to admit, I've been falling into the latter category, especially because my 2016 started with quite a bang. I've gone through a blog redesign, accompanied by a new approach to my content, I have been working relentlessly on becoming more organized at work, I had a few medical appointments and to top it all off, I just bought and registered a new car yesterday, which proved to be an administrative nightmare (imagine running from one authority to another, filling something like twenty different forms, and then dealing with the beyond rude and disagreeable police officer - I so wish I could have punched him in that smug face!).

All things considered, for the past two weeks, I haven't really had much energy left to focus on the big picture. I guess I have found myself in a mid-winter slump, and that, paired with my ongoing tendencies to do everything at once and spread myself way too thin, has taken its toll on my motivation and focus. In the spirit of giving myself grace, I'll be taking my Friday off the blog, and focusing on recuperating and refocusing my energy towards the things that truly matter to me. I'm planning to have a quiet weekend at home, cooking and baking up a storm, exercising, and working on my upcoming posts about apartment hunting and the whole renovation process (about time, right?).

In the mean time, I'll be also diving into my inspiration binder, and printing out and pondering some of my favorite quotes.  I'm well aware that simple words can't change our actions, but they can at least make us stop and think for a little while, reflect upon our intentions and actions and maybe inspire us to take the first step in the right direction. I'm sharing a few of my personal favorites today, and I would love to hear about yours: do you have a favorite quote that you keep coming back to? Or a dedicated Pinterest board with wise words to live by? If so, don't hesitate to share them in the comments!

I'm sorry if this post feels a little bit scattered, but it's the exact reflection of the current state of my mind. I'll be back on Monday, hopefully with some much needed R&R under my belt, and with some new and exciting content. Have a lovely rest of this week, guys!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Currently inspired by #14

Images via: Freutcake // Hint of Vanilla // Lark & Linen // Design love fest

A few things currently sitting on my Pinterest boards and inspiring my days:

Sausage, white bean and tortellini soup. One thing I'm always craving in winter is soup. A few times a week, there is a pot simmering on my stove, with whatever ingredients are currently lounging around my kitchen or are currently in season. But in order to avoid falling into a soup rut, I'm forever on the lookout for the next inspiring recipe. I've always wanted to try a tortellini soup (for some strange reason, it sounds rather exotic to me), and this one fits the bill perfectly. Sausage, beans and tortellini = the epitome of winter comfort food. (via Freutcake)

Coffee doughnuts. I have made a pledge to eat healthier this year, and I've been pretty good so far. But there are some cravings you cannot overcome, and baked donuts are one indulgence I will probably never give up. Especially if they have coffee flavor. And I especially love Megan's perspective on living and eating healthy. I fully subscribe to enjoying an indulgence every now and then. (via Hint of Vanilla)

Warm winter salad. And since we are already on the topic of healthy eating, I'm sharing this gorgeous winter salad. I'm a huge salad lover, but munching on cold baby spinach isn't exactly my thing in winter - I'm craving something warm and more substantial when the temps descend below zero. Enter this salad - full of grain, greens and pickled veggies, it sounds just like the perfect lunch to bring to work with me. (via Lark & Linen)

Goal setting with Bri. I have spent quite some time thinking about my 2016 goals and dreams, and since I'm such a visual person, I'd love to have them all on display somewhere I could see them every day. I love this idea of little flash cards, where you can write both things you want to bring more or into your life, and things you want to give up. Then you can pin them on your inspiration board, or put them into your wallet, to be reminded of your goals wherever you go. (via Design love fest)

Monday, January 18, 2016

From my kitchen: Chocolate, caramel and walnut tart

I'm usually rather bold in the kitchen, never shying away from a difficult recipe or a tricky step-by-step. However, there's one thing I've always avoided, and for no apparent reason, really: the homemade caramel. It's kind of surprising since I simply adore caramel sauce on served with my ice cream or my afternoon latte. I guess I was a little bit scared by all the stories on caramel gone wrong (oh, who am I kidding, really! The truth is, that the first time I attempted to make caramel at home, I burned both my hands. Ouch).

Nevertheless, some things you cannot avoid forever, and I soon realized that all I needed was a good incentive - and this decadent and tempting tart was too perfect to skip on! This is what I call the epitome of winter decadence: sweet caramel filling paired with rich chocolate ganache and crunchy have to get your first bite to truly feel the magic operate.

This is a perfect tart to prepare in advance (even a day before your event), and I'm sure it would look equally adorable in mini version, too. However, I should probably warn you: this really is a sweet bomb. One small part is enough to satisfy all your sugar cravings for a week. But wouldn't life be too dull and sad without a little bit of sweetness?

Chocolate caramel and walnut tart

Adapted from Bon Appétit
You'll need:


* 1 cup all purpose flour
* 1/3 cup powdered sugar
* 3/4 tsp salt
*  1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
* 1tbsp (or more) ice water

Blend flour, powdered sugar and salt together. Add mutter and and blend until mixture is coarse.
Add 1 tbsp ice water and blend well until slightly moist dough form. Add more water if necessary.
Transfer dough into a pie pan and press it firmly and evenly onto bottom and up sides of pan.
Chill this crust for one hour.


* 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
* 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* 1 1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

Bring cream to simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat.
Add chopped chocolate and stir until smooth.
Spoon 3 tbsp of ganache into a corner of small plastic bag and set aside for room temperature (it will
serve for piping in the end).
Spread remaining ganache evenly over bottom of crust.
Sprinkle chopped walnuts all over ganache. Chill again while you prepare caramel.

Caramel filling:

* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 1/3 cup water
* 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1/2 tsp salt

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is amber (8 minutes), occasionally swirling the saucepan. You can also occasionally brush down sides of saucepan with wet pastry brush. Remove pan from heat.
Add cream and butter, stir until butter dissolves. Return saucepan to heat.
Bring to boil again and whisk until caramel sauce thickens. Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and salt and whisk well.
Remove crust from fridge and pour caramel evenly onto crust. Let cool down completely.
Retrieve the plastic bag with ganache. Cut off very small tip from the corner where ganache is set.
Pipe ganache decoratively over caramel filling. Place back in fridge and chill for 2-3 hours (or overnight).

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekend notes & link love #32

Image via Style me pretty living

I've been thinking a lot about my goals and plans for 2016, and I really love getting other people's perspective on goal setting. Rachel's post was really interesting, and I love that she uses Lara Casey's method - it's my favorite, too! (via Intentionally designed)

Loved reading through these 6 habits of women who look radiant well into their 80s. Could it all go down just to exercise, sleep, meditation and purpose? Definitely worth trying! (via The Chalkboard Mag)

I have to admit, I'm not much of a fan of open plan spaces - I love the rooms in my home separate. But every once in a while I stumble upon a home tour that does open plan just right - and this one is a great example. Of course, it comes as no surprise, since it's been designed by Kara Vacca, and incredibly talented interior designer. Oh, and have I mentioned that she actually lives there? #majorenvy (via Glitter Guide)

I'm kind of intrigued by this 10-minute guide to cleaning your kitchen. I'm a little bit skeptic, too, so I'm definitely going to give it a try! My kitchen is not huge, and I'd love to see whether I can accomplish all this in just 10 minutes! (via Style me pretty living)

Ever wondered what all those lofty words used in book reviews really mean? Wonder no more. I was chuckling all the way down this list, and its second part, too, especially since I'm also guilty of overusing this publisher lingo. I just hope that one day my own books won't be described as "books for the ages", or "absorbing". Hilarious. (via One minute book reviews)

And a few things you might have missed on The Charming Avenue:

First of all, the introduction of The Charming Avenue: all the reasons for a rebrand and a new name, packed into one post.

With the new name comes also the new focus and new content. Read all about it here

More healthy, colorful and delicious smoothie recipes.

And a list of books to read before they come out as movies.

Have a lovely weekend guys!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Recipe roundup: Colorful smoothies #2

Guys, this is my first week back to work, and in all honesty, so far it's really kicking my butt! I dived headfirst into my workload, and after having a mild nervous breakdown over the state our our email inbox (and promptly deleting pretty much 80% of its contents), I've decided to deal with our material stock first thing. And boy, am I still hoping to emerge from that giant mess sooner rather than later! (preferably before the end of this year? :)

I'll spare you the gory details - this is just a sad excuse for why I'm currently unable to type anything that would be equal parts long, coherent and meaningful. I'll just keep on plowing through my storage boxes, daydreaming about the fabulous smoothie I'll make as soon as I get back home :) I have my mind firmly set on the mango & berry one. I just keep wishing somebody could make it for me while I'm all slumped on the couch. #wishfulthinking

How are you guys today? Any fun stuff going on in your part of the world? Do you find Thursdays equally exhausting, or is it just me?

Images & recipes via: Kitchen Confidante // Raw Edibles // No gojis, no glory // Averie Cooks

Carrot mango and kiwi smoothie. (via Kitchen Confidante)

Morning detox smoothie. (via Raw Edibles)

Refreshing mango berry smoothie. (via No gojis, no glory)

Blueberry pie smoothie. (via Averie Cooks)

Images & recipes via: The Bojon Gourmet // Culinary Hill // Simple Healthy Kitchen // Foodie Crush

Persimmon and tangerine smoothie. (via The Bojon Gourmet)

Mango carrot smoothie. (via Culinary Hill)

Stress buster orange smoothie. (via Simple Healthy Kitchen)

Mango smoothie. (via Foodie Crush)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books to read before they come out as movies

I can be extremely picky when it comes to watching movies based on books. Especially when it comes to the books that I really love. See, I take my books very seriously - I get attached to the main characters, I visualize the scenes and I remember important bits and pieces of the story, especially if I reread the book several times (like I did with Harry Potter or the Hunger Games). And then I go and see the movie, and all my favorite scenes may be cut or reworked. Or, in case of Harry Potter, completely massacred. I know that I say this probably way too often, but I never quite got over the last four Harry Potter movies. They were terrible. And painful to watch.

Lucky thing there are still screenwriters and directors who manage to stay true to the original story. I really loved the movie versions of the Martian (that was a good one!), Twilight, Hunger Games or the Divergent trilogy.. But I always make sure that I read the book before I see the movie - never the other way round. I told you - I take my books really seriously :) All these books are currently turned into movies, and I'm planning to read my way through all of them before seeing them on the big screen. And of course, there are many more books that I've already read and I'm quite eager to see their movie versions, like The Girl on the train, Me before you, Inferno, or Allegiant. 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for all the book & movie lovers! What movie are you most excited to see this year?

Michael Punke: The Revenant. Okay, so I'm cheating a little bit on this one, since it's already in theaters and what's more, Leo DiCaprio just won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the real-life trapper and frontiersman Hugh Glass. But I still have some time to catch up on this book before the movie hits the theaters here in Slovakia. So what is it about? When Glass comes face-to-face with a grizzly bear on a scouting mission, he is viciously mauled and expected to die shortly. The men supposed to take care of him leave him to die, and Glass is left with nothing but a strong will to survive, and one single obsession: revenge.

Dave Eggers: The Circle. As our lives become more and more public, and as we share our innermost thoughts and feelings on blogs, in emails and on social media, this books becomes more relevant than ever. It's a story of the world's most powerful internet company that links everything from your personal emails, through your social media, to your banking and shopping history (rings a bell?). The ideal of transparency seem tempting at first, but things aren't always as pretty as they seem on the outside. That's what Mae, the ambitious and idealistic woman who joins The Circle, has to learn: that with transparency comes a great deal of responsibility.

Jessica Knoll: Luckiest girl alive. This is one of those page-turning, nail-biting, addictive summer reads - and who cares that we're smack in the middle of winter, anyway? Ani's perfect life is a perfect lie. She has a fancy job, a glamorous wardrobe and a picture perfect relationship with her fiancé. But she also has a dark secret buried in her past, that haunts her and threatens to destroy everything she's worked so hard to achieve. And yet, revealing this secret could also finally set her free. What choice will she make?

Ransom Riggs: Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children. A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of photographs. These are all elements of a spine-tingling fantasy that's bound to haunt your evenings (and maybe even your nights). When 16-year old Jacob lands on a remote island off the Welsh coast, he discovers the ruins of Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children. He soon learns that those children were not only peculiar. They were dangerous. And quarantined. And maybe they are still alive, even after all those years.

Rick Yancey: The 5th wave. This is a modern sci-fi masterpiece. After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. After the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and Cassie runs from Them. From the creatures that destroyed Earth's population, who have scattered the last survivors, and now they are hunting them down and killing anyone they see. To stay alone is to stay alive - that's what Cassie believes, until she meets Evan. Because he may be her only hope. Of finding her brother. And surviving.

Marie Lu: Legend. By now you have probably guessed that I have a thing for YA books. If they're dystopian, all the better. And if they're part of series, that's the best. Unless you're John Green or Jennifer Nieven, and I'll read whatever you writes, even the footnotes. But I digress. Let's go back to Legend. What was once the western United States in now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family, June is a prodigy, raised and groomed for career in the military circles. Born into slums, Day is the country's most wanted criminal. June and Day have no reason to cross paths, until the day June's brother is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. In an unexpected turn of events, they discover the truth, and they'll have to learn the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle: Let it snow. Whatever John Green writes, I'll read it. No exceptions. In this book, he joined forces with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, two other talented YA authors. Together, they produced three interconnected stories that take place during a Christmas Eve. An epic snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven that prompts love and romance. Follows a stranded train, a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks, a walk through four feet of snow, and lots of romantic moments. This is bound to be a make-you-feel-great-inside book.

Nicholas Sparks: The ChoiceI have yet to read something written by this very prolific and successful author, and I may as well begin with this one. Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a fancy job, great friends, a charming waterfront house in North Carolina. And he is persuaded that a serious relationship would hinder his perfect lifestyle. That is, until Gabby moves next door. Ultimately, they both have to ask a heartwrenching question: how far would you go to keep the hope of love alive? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The charming content

So, you've probably already noticed that this beloved blog of mine has got a New Year's makeover (and if not, head over here to get the lowdown and all the whys). I may have kept the color palette (because I still love it as much as the first day I picked it) and the old URL (more on that later), but there are some serious changes brewing behind the scenes. And they all concern the content of The Charming Avenue.

It all comes down to what I want this place to be. I want my blog to be a place full of positive vibes, where you can come daily to gather ideas and inspiration for beautiful and refined living. A place that motivates you to try new things, experiment with new recipes, make your home a more beautiful place to live and make your health and well being your number one priority. In short, I want The Charming Avenue to inspire us to be better than we were yesterday.

As I explained in my introductory post, over the past few years, my priorities, passions and interests have changed significantly. Things that fire me up have changed. Two major life events have informed my transformation: joining our family business back in 2012, and buying, renovating and moving into my apartment in 2015. From a fashion and beauty-obsessed girl, I've transformed into an entrepreneur with a passion for decorating, with too many books to count, and with a desire to live a more organized, balanced and healthy life.

While I used to love putting together fun outfits and shopping for beauty products, these things no longer make me tick. I love a good shopping session just like the next girl, but these days, instead of a new pair of shoes or a cute nail polish, you'll find me scooping up home decor accessories. And if I once used to pore over gorgeous fashion editorials, now I spend my Pinterest hours admiring beautiful home tours, browsing for home decor inspiration and gathering business, blogging and wellness tips. I want my blog to reflect this new "me".

So, these are the main topics I'll be covering on The Charming Avenue from now on:

Home & Decor. This is the passion I've developed over the past two years. I've always loved decor magazines and blogs, but it wasn't until I acquired my very own space to play with, that it became a full-fledged love affair. I'll be sharing my inspirations, my decorating tips and tricks and my favorite decor finds with you. I will also finally share my apartment renovation and the lessons I learned in the process. And now that I'm finally done furnishing my apartment, the most fun part begins - the decorating!

Business & life lessons. The one facet of my being that I practically never talk about here on the blog, is my work. It's curious, really, because it's such a huge and important part of my day-to-day life! I've been working in our family company for more than 3 years, and practically co-running it with my father for over a year. It has challenged me and made me grow in ways I would never have imagined and expected. And since I know that many of you are running, or are dreaming of running your own businesses, I think it could be so interesting and valuable to share our experiences, our successes but also our setbacks and struggles.

Food. This is one staple that will never, ever go away, no matter how much my life and blog change. I treasure my time spent in the kitchen: cooking, baking and experimenting with new recipes is a wonderful way to relax, to get my mind off my work problems and to challenge myself to try something new. My goal is to cook and bake even more this year, and to work tirelessly on my photography skills, so that I can share my recipes and creations with you again.

Books. This is another passion of mine that deserves a more prominent place here on my blog. I read as I breathe and I collect books as my most treasured possessions. My love affair with books is the longest one in my life, and I can't go a day without reading at least a few pages. Books teach me new skills, give me new ideas, entertain me, boost my mood when I'm feeling down and they generally make my life more beautiful. So aside my monthly reading list, I'll be also introducing some new book-related features: book reviews, my favorite quotes, interviews with my favorite authors, and more.

Wellness and healthy living. I've spent a great deal of time thinking about this one. It's something I've never talked about before, for the simple reason - it has never been a priority to me. I know that it sounds awful, but I've always sort of taken my health for granted. And when I reflected upon 2015, all I could think of was how terribly I'd treated myself last year, both my body and soul. And I kept doing it until until I began losing my hair and battling bouts of insomnia, until I enchained several health scares in a row and until I felt completely exhausted and drained of energy. I went to see my doctor last November, expecting him to prescribe me some sleeping pills and maybe some supplements, or whatever. Instead, we ended up having an hour-long conversation about my terrible, terrible lifestyle. That conversation was a wake up call that I needed desperately. It opened my eyes to how horribly I was treating my body and mind, always expecting more of them, but giving them almost nothing in return. I really needed to turn my life's priorities upside down and put my health and well being on top of that list, where they rightfully belong.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not going to turn into a gluten-free-yogi-living-on-sprouts-only. After all, I'm nowhere near being ready to give  up chocolate, a glass of wine and my beloved French and Italian cuisines. What I want to do, is share tips and strategies on how to live a life that's balanced, healthy and fulfilling and how to incorporate healthy lifestyle habits and choices into our busy schedules. And most importantly, how to be kind to ourselves and enjoy our lives without deprivation. Who else is with me?

What do you think guys? Will you be interested in these topics? Are there any questions you may have, or things that you'd want me to cover? Don't hesitate to let me know: I truly want to make this space a source of daily inspiration for us all.

Here's to the new and better Charming Avenue!

PS: I've also promised you my two cents on the technical part of this rebranding, so here they go:

Over the past few weeks, I've read dozens of resources about rebranding, most of which dealt mainly with buying new domains, switching hosts and changing all your social media at once. All of these resources kept pointing out that a rebrand could take up to 6 months. And I was like, whaaaat? No way was I prepared to wait that long to put my new blogging goals and plans into practice. And after agonizing over this for several days (and nights), I've decided to take a different route. The one that my gut kept pointing me towards.

See, I'm really happy with my current design, layout and color palette. I even kept the main font for my header, because I love it so much! And sure, the discrepancy between the new name and the old URL may be confusing. I get that.

But in the end, you, guys, don't read blogs because of their URLs, or because of their expensive custom-made design, or because of a professional logo. I know I don't. I read and follow blogs because I love their content. Because I am inspired by their authors, by their authentic voice, by their beautiful photography and their unique perspective and opinions. Sure, I do appreciate a great design, but if the content doesn't follow suit, I'm outta here.

And I guess that's why you're reading my blog, too (or, at least I fervently hope so). Because you find it inspiring. Because you like my writing, or my style, or the type of content I am producing. And that's precisely what I want to focus on right now. Simply switching colors, adding fancy icons and getting a new domain isn't going to make this blog any better. Focusing on writing great copies, improving my photography, streamlining my niche and generally making this space more authentic and inspiring is.

Like all of you, I'm operating on a limited amount of time each day (and no, I'm sorry, but I don't buy that ever-present nonsense about us "having the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé". Can we just please stop shaming ourselves for not being mega-successful, world-dominating superstars with hundreds of people at our disposal to make our life run smoothly? Thank you.). And right now, I don't want to spend that time arguing with Facebook about changing my page's name, or checking my permalinks, or making sure that everything is redirecting properly. I need to invest my time and money in things far more useful and beneficial than a pricey web design and development.

It is true that as I'm gearing towards my bigger goals for this year, all these elements will probably follow. A new URL, a new website, a new business venture. All in good time. But right now, my main focus lays in making this space an inspiring place to be, for both you and me. And that, to me, begins and ends with great and authentic content.

I'll be sure to keep you updated on all the upcoming changes and modifications. Once again, thank you so much for bearing with me, for your patience and for your daily visits. You truly are the best!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Charming Avenue

Note: Guys, I have been writing, scratching, deleting and rewriting this post for the past week. I don't exaggerate when I say that I almost didn't publish it at all. It's going to be rather text heavy, and probably a little bit sappy, too, so please, bear with me as I'm saying goodbye to the old, and let me take you on my journey to a brand new & charming brand.

Well, hello guys! Noticed anything new around here?

I've been wondering, anyone around here long enough to remember, that at the very beginning, this blog was called Style in the city? I started it in 2010, and it was probably the ugliest thing I've ever created (see for yourself). Oh the joys of the gory past! I started writing in French, then moved to Slovak, before finally settling on the universality of English. Like any newbie blogger, I played around with layouts and themes, had a mile-long blogroll, and didn't know a single thing about photo formatting. It actually hurts my eye to see it today, but I would never delete it completely: it's the best reminder of the journey I've completed thus far. Because aside from being my favorite creative outlet, my blog has also been the witness of my evolution as as a writer, as a photographer, and most importantly, as a person.

When I first started blogging, I was freshly out of university, my Master's in political science in hand, a little wide-eyed and naive, with big dreams that didn't come to fruition at the time, and thus, with no clear idea of what I would become when I grew up. My passions and interests were all over the place: fashion, foreign languages, food, home decor, beauty, baking, decorating, shopping and so on and so forth. I have never even heard of the word "niche", and I blogged about whatever struck my fancy at the time.

A year into blogging, Style in the city somehow lost its appeal to me - it was too random, too broad, too reminiscent of one of my favorite TV shows, and not authentic enough. And so I was in the market for a new name and a brand that would represent me and my interests better. Thus Macarons and Pearls was born. I can still remember how happy and excited I was when I first came up with that name. At the time, it embodied everything I was striving to bring to my life and to my blog: chic and stylish outfits, the latest beauty products, a hefty dose of French chic and glamour. It was also a daily reminder of my quest for the perfect homemade macarons. And it seemed to be working. I loved writing, I loved sharing my outfits & recipes with you, and for a brief moment, I also thought about making blogging my full time career. No need to say that it never happened. Instead, life happened. From an unhappily engaged "housewife", I transformed into an almost homeless, but happily single woman. I packed my bags, returned to my home county (Slovakia), joined the family business and focused on picking up the pieces of my life, and rebuilding them all over again.

In the midst of all the drama, this little blog of mine somehow fell completely to the wayside. While adjusting to a dramatically different life situation, learning ropes of a brand new-to-me industry (cable confection, anyone?), and figuring out what to do with my life, I couldn't be bothered to put together cute outfits, review nail polishes or follow the latest in runway shows. I was becoming a new person, and I simply wasn't able to take my blog on that journey with me. I popped in occasionally, with a new post and grand plans to "do it all better this time", but my heart wasn't in it anymore. Truth is, for a brief moment, I even debated closing this space altogether and moving on to something else. But I couldn't bring myself to writing that one last post. I couldn't kill this space that had played such a huge role in my own personal evolution. So I let it hibernate and I stopped beating myself up for being a "bad" blogger. I focused fully on the most important areas of my life, and trusted that when the right time came for me to put on my writer's hat again, I would know it.

And boy, has that time come, indeed. The itch to write and share has come back in full force. But it has also come with a great deal of soul searching. In those months away from blogging, I have changed and evolved. My priorities have changed. So have my interests and passions. And I want and need my blog to change with me.

See, this year I'll be turning 30, and a new pair of shoes, a cute skirt or the latest shade of nail polish don't fire me up anymore. I still love a good shopping spree, but these things don't make me jump out of my bed in the morning. Learning the ropes of running a small business does. Wrapping up a difficult work project, making my new apartment a home, traveling the world, reading inspiring books, creating, making delicious things in my kitchen, learning constantly and growing as a person, as a daughter, as an entrepreneur...these are the things that light the fire inside my soul, that make me wake up in the morning, full of energy and excitement for a brand new day.

And this person that I've become, isn't able to identify with the Macarons and Pearls brand anymore. It feels too restrictive. Too linked to my past. Too vested in fashion, It doesn't correspond to my personal journey anymore. The time has come to tell a different story of who I am and what I do, and this story needs a new name to begin with.

Sooo. drumroll, please...and say hello to The Charming Avenue!

What's in a name, you may ask? First and foremost, I was looking for an adjective that could represent everything I wanted my blog and my brand to stand for. I want it to embody the elegant, feminine, sophisticated and refined style that I'm striving for. I want it to have a classic feel, but with a hint of playfulness. I want it to represent the current stage of my life, but I also want for it to have a longevity that will be able to encompass any possible future ventures I may embark upon. And I want to be proud to say it out loud.

I've been brainstorming new names for weeks. I've compiled so many lists of possible options. Jotted down each and every idea that crossed my mind. But only one word kept coming back over and over again. It was the word "charming". It's the word that best describes my life and my dreams. It's the word that best describes you, my readers. And it's the word I can see myself, my brand and my business growing with. And that's how The Charming Avenue was born.

What do you think, guys? I would love to get your feedback!  I'm a little bit nervous, presenting this big change to you, but I also feel confident that it's a step in the right direction. And of course, I'm absolutely giddy with excitement at the prospect of sharing all the new content and features with you!

I'll be back tomorrow to share a closer look at how the new name will affect the content of my blog. Some things I will keep and develop further, some new things I will add, and some I will throw away without mercy. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, if you've made it this far, thank you so so much for reading. You rock my world on a daily basis, and I'm so thankful to have you in my life!

Cheers to the new, charming beginnings!

Just to be authentic with you, guys, this is what drafting this post really looked like. I wrote four pages, then proceeded to scratching half of them, I rewrote each sentence three times, then went on and typed something almost completely different on my computer. I even spilled my coffee all over my paper draft. I'm definitely going to keep this as a reminder of a big milestone in my blogging history :)

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