Michelle Obama. Becoming. Why to read?

Блог Listen to your broccoli - Мишель Обама. Книга Становление

If a memoir is written by the First Lady, wife of the first Afroamerican President, do you need more reasons for it? This is why someone should read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama in view: 

  • In order to enjoy an extremely open preface to the book written by Michelle

This book by Michelle is the first for many years which I read with interest and pleasure. She describes the ability to finally be at home alone, go to the kitchen and make a sandwich for herself so reverently, so you start to understand how messy and demanding her life was for the period of eight years. (Well, maybe you do not need to move to the White House to start valuing silence, you might just get children, that would be enough:)). 

  • Learn in which situation the most-quoted phrase from the book was said

“I do not think you are Princeton material”. This is what Michelle heard from the orientation consultant in her high school. Later she would prove to be Princeton material, Harvard material, and First Lady material and she would not forget to include this story into her book, probably so that anyone facing such situations will remember where not-Princeton material ends up. 

  • Finally, learn who they got to know each other

I knew that Michelle was a mentor of Barak Obama when he joined a law company where she worked. I had the impression that she was more of a manager to him based on this, but in reality, it was not like that. She was a couple of years younger and mentoring meant just supporting and making him feel at home in the company. 

  • Learn that it is okay to give up a prestigious job in a legal company and accept the decrease in pay if you are looking for who you are 

Great salary, expensive wines on subscription, Armani suits – all of that comes with lawyers position as a package. But she did not like anything like that and she did not need it. Several times she would describe moments where she changed her job to something elsewhere she would get less salary, but she would do more things she likes. 

  • To learn how you can take care of yourself

Michelle shares stories about miscarriages, about not so smooth the path to receiving the proposal of marriage. He did not consider such formalities to be important. Later when they got children they even went through couples therapy. She had an opinion that her husband was not contributing to family life due to his work and traveling.

It was funny to read that she came out of those sessions with the decision to take better care of herself. And her first step was to start getting up at 4.45 in order to go to the gym before her work starts. This is really caring about yourself!:) 

  • Learn how the necessity to be in front of thousands can catch off guard 

During the presidential election campaign, the wife of the new candidate had to speak publicly a lot. The book depicts a moment that she realizes that she was not good at it. Her assistants and consultants showed her the recording of her speech without sound and she got to know that her body language, movements on stage, facial expressions could cause negative reactions. 

  • Learn what are the important things when you are moving to the White House

While describing the period of moving to the White House she explains that she wanted to retain the feeling of normality for her daughters. I thought she will be worried about them getting used to luxury and comfort. But she was more focused on not needing to ask permission to go outside or grab food in the kitchen on their own or go with their classmates for ice-cream without having to plan this a week beforehand.  

  • Learn what does it mean to live in the White House

It was really exciting to envision all household details: how the White House looks from inside, how the President’s family lives on the top floor and underneath the politics happens. I was surprised to learn that while residing in the White House the family pays the bills for many things like food, sleep-overs of friends and family. 

Michelle Obama has exceptional education, not for nothing, the bool is really well written. She managed to balance perfectly between openness and self-respect or personal boundaries.

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Ireland. Wild Atlantic Way


Блог Listen to your broccoli Дикий Атлантический путь

If you have a week to visit Ireland, where specifically to go? These were the thoughts I was having and googling. Apparently the most popular directions are: 

  • North including a visit to Northern Ireland
  • West (Atlantic Ocean coast)
  • South (Cork)

We chose the west and the Atlantic ocean. Why? Just because the road along the west coast is beautifully named Wild Atlantic Way and this title is sooo promising. 

How to move around: by car

“You know, we are feeding them and they do not know anything about us. And we know everything about them. We watch their tv”. The owner of the B&B where we stayed for a night was talking about the British. I was quite surprised to learn that the territory of Ireland is three times smaller than of Britain and the number of people is twelve (!) times smaller. 

When you travel by car it is quite obvious that the country is not densely populated. There are a lot of stand-alone cottages. It is remarkable that all the cottages seem to be very new and modern. I have barely seen any old style cottages. According to the same B&B hostess, the Irish were very poor not so long ago and their houses were cabins. Only recently they started to have really decent houses. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli - Коттедж в Ирландии

Typical cottage in Ireland

Where to stay 

You can stay in numerous B&Bs and hotels. We tried: Bed&Breakfast, hotel in a coastal village, hotel in bigger Galway, strange cabin in the national park (see on the photo), in the most luxurious hotel of a rural town in the center of Ireland. 

Out of all of them, the most I liked was our stay at B&B. When I was searching through different B&B I saw some a bit strange photos, not glamourous so to say, but the one we chose we really like. Very friendly, open hostess. 

At every place, we stayed we spend one night and if I could turn time back I would not do it. It is too much hassle and packing and unpacking. Ireland is not that big, you can even visit most of the places from Dublin by day trips. Of course, it is not a real road trip then. So I would say spend at least two nights at a place, that would be the best. 

So what was our itinerary? 


Блог Listen to your broccoli - Ирландия

View from the wall of John’s Castle, Limerick.

This town has John’s Castle that has everything that a decent museum and castle should have.

Close to Limerick, there is a place where on the different sides of the Shannon river there are two villages Ballina and Killaloe. Beautiful sights and an interesting story about rebellious women who lost access to the river because of the new train track. As a part of the protest, they just lay down on the track. Finally, their protest worked and a special bridge was built for them. 


Блог Listen to your broccoli Мост в Баллине, Ирландия

Bridge over the train track which was demanded by women who could not access the river. 

Cliffs of Moher 

This is Instagram must have (see the first photo of this post). But! The weather might spoil all the pleasure. Then no beauty and it can be even dangerous. This logically ties back to the recommendation to stay more nights in one place. If you have several days you can choose a day with the best weather for your visit to the Cliffs of Moher. 

Our day was perfect, we did not walk all eight km along the cliffs, but we managed to reach a point where they barely any people. And we could sit there alone, on the cliffs and watch the birds and fall asleep in the sun. I was thinking about why we did not take lunch with us so that we could stay longer. 

Aran Islands and sweaters

Aran sweaters are named after these Irish islands that are close to the Cliffs of Moher. There are three islands and each of them gives a reason to visit. There boats going back and forth. 

The islands are famous for the sweaters and for the fact that they preserved the culture and way of living due to the isolation. Children are sent there to learn the Irish language and during their stay in these language camps, they are not allowed to use English. We visited the smallest island which is inhabited by 249 people. 

These islands were used as locations for several movies. For example, the bar from the movie Leap Year and some other scenes were filmed there. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Острова Аран

The smallest from Aran Islands and the Atlantic Ocean


Connemara is a beautiful area with low green mountains, lakes, cliffs, and stones on the coastline. We were not ready for all this beauty and did not know where to go and how to see. But thanks to the itinerary that the owners of the place where we stayed we had a five km walk along the coast. All the French visit Connemara because of the song of Michel Sardou. 

Kylemore Abbey

Not so long ago (the 2000s) this was a boarding school organized by nuns. Girls from rich families and even Indian princess studied here. Nuns are still living in the abbey, make chocolate, spices, look after the huge gardens. I liked to look at the abbey from the bridge and think about how the lives of former schoolgirls shaped up. 

Блог Listen to your broccoli Аббатство Киллемор


Galway has the best pubs, funny musicians and the two most famous songs with the same title: Galway Girl. One by Steve Earle (this song is also used in the movie P.S. I love you) and another one by Ed Sheeran. Why Sheeran created a song with the same title, but different? His answer was that he tried many other options (Cork Girl for example), but it did not work out. 


Ireland seems to be soaked in whiskey. There are a lot of whiskey distilleries that have museums, tours etc. We visited Tullamore Dew on the way back. Even people who cannot stand the smell of whiskey will start to like it a bit after Ireland. 

What to bring from Ireland? Well, whiskey cubes from Connemara stones, what else:) 

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Ireland Wild Atlantic Way



My first speech at public speaking club Toastmasters


Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

“How to get from NOW to WOW?” asked the speaker. After a pause, she added an extra line for the word NOW in order to get to WOW. That was the only moment from her eight-minute speech in the public speaking club Toastmasters that I remembered. I did not hear anything more and did not see anything as I was supposed to be the next speaker after her.

How to survive your first speech?

How quickly should you do a speech after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible but there are no hard rules. You can join meetings, pick up supportive roles during the evening (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master, etc) and take your time.

The first speech is called Icebreaker and it is not that difficult as you have to tell about yourself whatever you want, explain why you decided to join the club if you want.


Do you need to write your speech in advance? 

Listen to your broccoli Toastmasters Public Speech

My draft of the first speech in the public speaking club Toastmasters

I have two answers:

  • You have to write your speech – A spontaneous speech also can be cool and interesting but the expectations for the speeches are quite high (there is even a special person who is counting filler words during the speeches). The audience expects a structure in the speech, transitions (well, don’t get scared, for the first speech the only thing that is expected is that you show up). In my view, it is useful to write the speech down in order to be able to look at it with someone’s else eyes. It also allows you easily switch points in order and check how does it change the emphasis. And as a result, your first sentence will change from “Today I would like to tell you about myself” to “I was wondering what should I tell you today so that you will never forget”.
  • Afterward through the written speech away – I decided not to be bothered to rehearse all the time from the fully written speech and not to come on stage with a paper in my hands. I condensed my written draft into a handful of ten bullet points and forgot that at some point I had a full-blown draft.
Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters Публичные выступления

Five minutes before the speech. The bullet points.

How did I choose to tell about myself?

My first idea was to tell a couple of my life stories that demonstrate my personality. Maybe about 6-7 stories (now I know that cannot even fit in a 6 minutes speech). And then I realized – stories from my life? How can it be interesting for people that are not even familiar with me? They do not know where I come from? Who would be interested in my complicated stories and there is no wish and curiosity yet? Should not this interest be first created? They are not my friends or colleagues who might be interested to know me better. They are just unfamiliar random people and I am random to them.

That’s why I decided to go for simplicity. If I would meet these people in real life, what basic things they would want to know about me? So I chose three basic questions that I expected I would need to answer during the first acquaintance with someone. As a result, my speech was called “Three Questions”.

How to finish your speech in time?

A standard Toastmaster speech in the club is about 6-8 minutes (for the first one it is 4-6 minutes). I was staring at the text and thinking how much it is? Is it enough? And still, when I rehearsed in front of my bed, the speech took ten minutes (!), second-time rehearsal took eight minutes. On the day itself, the speech took 5:45 minutes.

What was the most difficult?

The last half an hour before your speech. The closer you get to the speech, the less interesting and more silly your speech seems to be. The last minutes and seconds before the speech are full of these types of thoughts – would I be able to open my mouth? And I have to mention this very friendly atmosphere in the club. What it will be if it will not be that friendly?

What other difficulties did I experience?

Hands! There is no place for them. I think someone should write a thesis on this topic “Where should put my hands during my speech?”. Maybe it is written already. Anyhow that’s a good topic for a new speech – what to do with the hands during the speech.

How my speech was evaluated?

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters Публичные выступления

Feedback from the club members

I am a very not confident person and not very easy with the critical feedback, but the whole process of the evaluation and feedback and set up in such a positive way, that I did not experience my issues.

After the speeches for the evening are finished, especially assigned people start the process of evaluation. An evaluator gives feedback about a specific speech that is centered around advantages and disadvantages. This was feedback for me:

  • Do not walk and talk
  • Don’t move with your side to the audience
  • Don’t hold your hands in a closed position

Additionally, everyone in the room can write their own feedback about what they liked or what could be better next time. These small papers are handed to the speaker at the end of the evening. I got about 25 little papers with feedback.

What’s next?

The next is a long way from NOW to WOW to me, an amazing speaker. The way that I continue to describe here under the toastmasters tag.


5 movie dresses you will never forget

Блог Listen to your broccoli 5 платьев Искупление

We see clothes of our movie heroes just for some seconds sometimes. And because of that, I am always surprised by stories of movie costume managers about how much time they spend choosing the right clothes for a movie.  And I always ask myself – was all that time spent worth it? Did anyone notice that this hue of the blue color symbolized the complicated inner world of the character? To be honest I really doubt this.

However, sometimes the dresses from the movies become a symbol not only of the movie itself but of some important life lesson. This is my list of five dresses. Do you have one?


 Brown polka dot dress from Pretty Woman

Usually, other dresses from this movie end up in different top movie lists, but for me, it is this one. 

  • Symbol of the transformation of the female lead. For the first time, she looks like she belongs to this world (though she does not feel like this).

Screenshot from Pretty Woman. The polka dot dress. 



Dress from Dirty Dancing

Фильм, который снимался как проходной, стал вдруг культовым. Фильм, про не зря проведенные летние каникулы? Про то, как ты не умеешь что-то и вдруг вырастаешь над собой? И становишься кем-то другим? И можешь то, что не могу совсем недавно?

The movie that was shot as low budget something that would be forgotten very soon finally became iconic.

  • Symbol of a dream to beautifully moving in a beautiful dress. 
  • Life lesson: even boring vacation with your parents can become a life experience.
Блог Listen to your broccoli 5 платьев Грязные танцы

Screenshot from Dirty Dancing. Final scene. 


Green dress from Atonement

This dress the female lead puts on for dinner after a hot summer day. 

  • Symbol of the fragility of the current moment. 
  • Life lesson: What you think is a problem becomes appears to be trivial later after you face real problems. Therefore enjoy life, have sex in an amazing green dress in the library if you have an opportunity.
Блог Listen to your broccoli 5 платьев Искупление

Screenshot from Atonement. 


Wedding dress from the Sex in the city 

Sometimes I think that it was chosen to make thousands of people wonder why it was chosen. It is wrinkled even.

Symbol of what the heroine achieved in her relationship. Which are a wrinkled dress and a bird in her hair?  

Life lesson: if you are planning to go somewhere in a huge wrinkled dress and a bird in the hair, maybe you should not go?

Блог Listen to your broccoli 5 платьев Секс в большом городе

Screenshot from the Sex in the City. 

Green dress from Gone with the Wind 

This dress is a symbol of everything you could think of:

  • Symbol of revival, of creating something from nothing, invention, and imagination
  • Life lesson: apparently you cannot come to a man to ask for money in an ugly dress.
Блог Listen to your broccoli 5 платьев Унесенные ветром

Screenshot from Gone with the Wind. 

I would love to hear about your favorite dresses and life lessons.

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Blog listen to your broccoli Dirty Dancing

Public speaking club Toastmasters

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

A small room above Florin bar in the center of the Dutch city Utrecht. I am visiting a very lively public speaking club which is a part of an International organization called ‘Toastmasters‘. Just in a couple of months I will become a member of the club and will deliver my first speech.

This happens quite often – you have no idea about some phenomena, then you see a small advertisement printed on a piece of paper and pinned on the wall next to the coffee machine in your office and this phenomenon starts to jump on you from all the sides: a lot of people you know are members already, you see people mentioning it in the internet all over the place, coaches recommend you to go to Toastmasters. And just like that you are already sitting, trembling and waiting to come out on the stage to give your first speech.

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters public speaking club was founded in the US about one hundred years ago and today there are clubs all over the world (about 10 in Russia and Ukraine and since 2019 there is a club in Belarus).

Toastmasters is all about the practice of public speaking. If to put it in a couple of words you do a speech, club members give you feedback and next time you try to be better.

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

The magazine of Toastmasters public speaking club 


If to detail it a bit more, every meeting of the club is organized by several people who pick up different roles. There is also an online platform with some guidelines, competitions (also international), a printed magazine, club events, between club events and different options for participation. Next to the prepared speeches, there is something called ‘Table Topics”. These are unprepared, short speeches (1-3 minutes) for a topic that is given to you right there on the stage. The overall meeting takes about 2.5 hours (but this, of course, differs by the club).

Блог Listen to your broccoli | Toastmasters

The agenda of the meeting. Everything is planned up to a minute. 

Members of the club are people who pay the club fee. Guests or visitors (anyone who wants to learn about the club) can come several times before deciding to join the club. I visited one club in Amsterdam as a guest. Everything is the same, but everything is different. Members of the club do leave a mark on the entire atmosphere of course.

Why people join the Toastmasters club?

I heard many answers from different people and all of them have a lot in common: not to be afraid of public speaking, not to be standing there with a paper in the trembling hands, not to be experiencing a nervous break-down five minutes before coming to the stage. However, I have also heard answers that stood out: to become a stand-up comedian or to have drinks in a nice company on Friday evenings (you would wonder is it a realistic wish? Well, it is, because meetings take place right above the Florin bar and you can imagine where they end).

How quick to start giving speeches in the club after you joined?


How quickly should you start with speeches after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible, but there are no rules for this. You go at your own speed. You can join meetings, take facilitating meeting roles (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master и так далее) or you can just join meetings for some time and do not take roles.