life

You’ve got it all wrong

August 10, 2018

If you have been following me along the past year both on Facebook and on my blog you might have observed that I haven’t always been positive. I spoke about my issues with housing, the fact that I felt my second year abroad was harder than the first, the impression that I have temporarily lost my vision and so on. And you might have reached the conclusion that I am unhappy or depressed or that my life decisions were not the right ones.

And you could be right. If these were all the facts. But they are not. Remember, there is always more to the story than you know. And such is the case for me too.

Indeed, this year, I have been publicly sharing my struggles more than ever. But I only chose to do that because I felt no one else around me was doing so. At times I felt alone in my struggles, although it seemed to me they could not have been experienced only by myself. Perhaps not paradoxically, I was ready to share those seemingly weak moments only when I was at my strongest point, after the storm had passed. That’s because it took a lot of guts and thick skin to publish those snippets of life.

Yet, I have not been completely unhappy. Rather, I would say, in the big picture, I have actually been happy more times than I have been unhappy. I built a life for myself exactly how I wanted it, in a way I am more than sure my younger self would be inspired by and my older self proud of. I surrounded myself with the best of things and people, as much as I could, and I did my best to enjoy each day.

And yes, there were hard days! But never, NEVER, have I thought to give up. Never, NEVER, have I said to myself that I made the wrong decisions. Never, NEVER, have I considered that I was not exactly where I was supposed to be.

Truth be told, I have grown up. I might have lost a bit of my teenage innocence and my sweet naïveté, but I have never felt more like myself. And yes, I experienced many many happy days and I still believe with all my heart that Life. Is. Beautiful. It’s just that now I mostly keep these moments to myself.

I don’t want to be phony, I don’t want to be hypocrite and I most definitely don’t want to project the idea that living abroad is easy. Because it’s not. So I will not cast everything in a pink and flattering light just so I can get more likes and more hearts and more congratulations messages. Because these are not warming my heart. Lately I chose to share more of my troubled moments to help others and to create that sort of accepting environment where we don’t feel judged for opening up. Yet, that is exactly what happened. I felt like my own story got distorted, as if my life could be resumed only by those fragments of text. Did the filters and the curation of social media content trick us that life is always easy, gentle and kind? Have we forgotten that life is made out of both good AND bad?

Frankly, I am bloody happy and freaking proud of where I am now. I achieved so many things on my own that bring me joy every single day, and most of all, I Did It My Way.

And watch out, because I got my vision back, and this time, I’m not letting it go. 

 

P.S. I think the highest form of praise, satisfaction and embrace of life is saying that you would make the same choices again. Which I would.

Laura Recommends

July Recommendations II

August 2, 2018

July is over which means we have come full circle from my first recommendations post last year! How crazy is this?!

I cannot express how happy I am to have started this series as a way to revive my blog, give more meaning to it and bring value to people’s lives. This series has also helped me accomplish so many things, such as keeping myself accountable with always reading, experiencing or watching something to giving me the best reason to publish something at least once a month. This is why this particular month feels special and why this current article is almost double than the usual length! Ready. Steady. Go!

 

BOOKS

Small data – Martin Lindstrom

This book immediately caught my attention because of the seemingly unrelated connections it makes between magnets on Siberian fridges and American supermarkets, between a teddy bear in a teen’s room and Tally Weijl’s store restructuring in 20 countries or between used sports shoes and LEGO’s urge to revive its spirit and its position on the market. After reading the book and the explanations, all these connections will make sense and will open up your eyes to learning more about small data, I promise.

Factfulness – Hans Rosling

I put this book on my wish list immediately after Bill Gates recommended it in a LinkedIn post and I absolutely loved it. You might remember Hans Rosling from his world famous TED talk from 11 years ago (which I advise you to watch if you haven’t as these are some very well invested 20 minutes). This book is all about giving you context and perspective in order to see the world with different eyes and with a more realistic and positive approach based on facts, not exceptions. It’s a very rare thing that I read a book and find comfort and reassurance, but Factfulness is one of these books.

Visual Thinking – Willemien Brand

I have seen this book first at The Next Web conference, at the ABC bookshop corner, and I knew I had to get it (in another day in which I was not running from one place to the other). I have been long thinking that I need to up my visual game since this skill can be used in presentations, pitches, notes and anywhere you need to get noticed or highlight certain information, so I am already making progress with my high-end doodling even though I am barely half-way through the book! Definitely get a notebook and some fine liners next to you if you buy the book!

*Above I have put links from Bookdepository because they have global shipping and so I thought this would be the best platform for all international readers. I’m not getting anything if you order the books, except the gratitude that I inspired your reading choices.

VIDEOS

This Is What Happens When Writers’ Rooms Aren’t Diverse

I have increasingly started to be more aware of the production aspects of movies, serials and series, particularly the diversity of the teams creating them: are there enough women to ensure a proper female representation of characters on screen? are there enough ethnically diverse people to make sure no line is inappropriate or harmful for some communities? – these are some of the questions I try to ask myself when watching a series or taking into consideration when I feel something on screen is odd. Definitely watch this video if you are also preoccupied by this or if you truly want to understand the need for diversity and representation. (On a side note, I am very excited to watch Crazy Rich Asians – it already feels like such a win for the industry!)

Nike #NeverAsk campaign

This incredible campaign for the Russian market has been created by Wieden and Kennedy and perfectly encompasses the Just Do It slogan. It’s in Russian, so don’t forget to add subtitles (CC button) to understand the story. It’s definitely worth watching.

Continue Reading…

Laura Recommends

June Recommendations

July 10, 2018

Albeit a bit later than usual due to a well deserved holiday in Italy, I am back with a list of places, things, videos and thoughts I have liked during the past month and which I would like to share with you.

As a result of a hectic month with a different set of priorities than usual, my reading list was sadly thinner than I wanted, being composed only out of three books that should count as one and a half considering two of them add up to less than 250 pages and the other one I was done with on the 1st of June, after reading 90% of it in May. I can’t truly recommend any of the three for different reasons irrelevant to this post, but let me know if you want me to do a bigger book post about my favourites/my dislikes in the past year or about my read shelf and my TBR shelf. I have indeed started reading other 3 books in June out of which I have read almost 300 pages so here’s to hoping July will be the month in which I get to finish something (I hope this will be the case since I also just bought 10 more books *facepalm*).

 

Let’s get into it. Here’s what I liked seeing, attending, watching and reading in June:

VIDEOS

Notes on the set – ‘The Crown’

It’s not a secret I loved Netflix’s ‘The Crown’ , a series focused on the British Monarchy played by an incredibly cast. In this video, Martin Childs, ‘The Crown’ production designer, explains how his team managed to pull together interiors that resemble the original royal venues. It’s extremely fascinating and insightful and particularly interested for the fans of the show familiar with the scenes and with production and design passionates.

How New York got its skyline

Before watching this video I never asked myself the above question, but now I am glad I know the answer to it. Bloomberg has done a particularly fine job bringing this topic forward and I hope to see more such videos from them in the upcoming months.

RO: Vlad Voiculescu’s TEDx talk

For my fellow Romanians who did not get a chance to watch this widely circulated video of a talk one of our former Health Ministers offered at TEDx Cluj, please carve 20 minutes out of your hectic schedule and watch it. Please.

 

PLACES

Villa Rufolo, Ravello

Out of my most recent trip to Italy this must be one of the most beautiful places I have seen! The gardens at Villa Rufolo are so well maintained and the views are absolutely breathtaking that it’s easy to forget you are not dreaming.

Hotel Covo dei Saraceni, Positano

Alright, so I might not be able to say a lot about the hotel since I did not stay there during my time in Positano, but their downstairs café/restaurant served the best sorbet I have ever tasted! Maybe I am slightly biased because it was lemon-based (and I love lemons!) and served in an actual frozen lemon, but it was for sure one of the most memorable things I ate while in Italy. Also, I sort of regret not going on a lemon farm tour (I didn’t know these were a thing!) so if someone can take me to the Amalfi coast again so I can see the pretties lemons again I’d be forever grateful.

 

EVENTS

Open Tuinen Dagen/ Open Garden Day (Amsterdam)

This classical June event is something I had been waiting for since last year, when I sadly learned about it too late. This event is centred around the gardens of the canal houses in Amsterdam, and it was mainly created as a way to raise awareness about them and their sometimes decaying beauty. Considering the participating gardens are mostly private or not easily accessible ones, the event felt like a special incursion into a magical and secret green world of Amsterdam.

Dan Ariely talk- The Philosophy of Money

In June I got the amazing opportunity to hear Dan Ariely talk during an event organized by the School of Life Amsterdam. He mainly talked about money and our financial habits and behaviours and I have noted down some really insightful thoughts that I decided would be great to share with you:

  • We made saving invisible and we made spending visible. Do you know how much your neighbours are spending? Kind of – you know in what type of place they live, what car they drive, what clothes they wear and so on. But do you know how much they save?
  • Life  is a portfolio of decisions. What do you have highlighted in yours?

If you want to learn more about other ideas Ariely talks about, such as the pain of paying, the money you need to get to live happily well into your retirement years or why we should make our efforts visible in relation to our clients, you might want to read his latest book called Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter.

Noaptea de Sânziene – Se deschid cerurile de Sânziene

I wanted to attend this event for more than three years and unfortunately I was either away or unavailable during the nights it was organized. For all my foreign friends and readers, every year on the 24th of June, Romanians celebrate the Sânziene, who are the closest beings to fairies who every year dress in white, gather flowers and braid them into crowns which are later thrown on house roofs to determine if someone in that household will die (if the crown falls from the roof) or if the next year will be a prosperous one (if the crown doesn’t fall from the roof). The celebration and our rituals sort of reminded me a bit of what I have read about the Swedish midsommar celebrations (by the way, if you haven’t watched this extremely humorous clip about these Swedish festivities, this clip might be for you).

 

ARTICLES

Want to understand experience design? Eat popcorn with chopsticks

Before reading this article I was a bit skeptical I would learn something new from such a seemingly irrelevant and click-bait-ish title, but I caught myself by surprise by learning more about how we can create memorable experiences with thoughtful design.

 

Here is where I am wrapping up this months recommendations article, with the hope you’ll also share what you have liked/read/watched or tried out and loved in the past weeks.

 

See you soon!

Laura

LauraxELLE, travel

Jet. Set. Saint Petersburg!

June 20, 2018

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember that last summer I went to Moscow and Saint Petersburg for 10 days. And while I already managed to post a travel article about Russia’s capital, it was about time I told you more about Saint Petersburg.

As always, I want to be fair and transparent with you, so the places marked with an asterix (*) are places I have not had yet the pleasure to pay a visit, but they are still highly recommended amongst the well-traveled circle.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Between Bucharest and Saint Petersburg there is no longer a direct flight, but you may get good connections and great offers with only one stop over. Besides the transit time, the shortest flight time is four hours and a half.

WHAT TO SEE:

When you say Saint Petersburg it is impossible not to think about the famous art museum Hermitage, the Peterhof domains, which host gardens and a palace frequently likened to Versailles, and Tsarskoye Selo, the palace which houses the world renowned Amber Room. Besides these tourist spots, The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood/ the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ is definitely worth a visit due to its 7500 square meters of floor to ceiling mosaics. If you are in Saint Petersburg in the warmer months, do not miss out a boat trip on the Neva river to assist at the midnight bridge opening show. Below you’ll find another two recommendations which will definitely impress you:

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Laura Recommends

May Recommendations

June 3, 2018

Upon writing down what I liked so much during the month of May that I wanted to recommend to everybody, I thought this month there was not really that much to write about. However, after starting to look in my YouTube and Google history I discovered I have actually read and watched some pretty interesting things. Despite having a tracking list of all the books I have read so far, I thought I had no other way to hold myself accountable for all the other sources of knowledge I use. Turns out, my promise to myself to write these recurring Recommendation articles is the best way to keep me on the track of learning something new and different every month. After this small epiphany I decided to ask you as well what do you do to keep yourself accountable for the knowledge you earn? Goodreads? Folders of read articles in a special app? Handwritten lists? I would love to hear it all!

 

ARTICLES & LEARNING

The Bewitching Time Warp of Transylvania, Romania

This superb piece from Conde Nast Traveler about Transylvania reminded me so much about my childhood. It also triggered in me the wish to spending some weeks there this summer to experience again the art of slow living.

P.S. The images accompanying the article are absolutely stunning and remind me of the work that Mihail Onaca or Lavinia Cernău created in the same region across various seasons.

Elements of AI course

This free course about AI is offered by the University of Helsinki (kudos to you, folks!) and so far has proven a great introduction to a topic I had been curious for a long time. If you are also doing the course, let me know, so we can chat about it!

 

VIDEOS

The complex geometry of Islamic design

I promise this older TED Ed video about Islamic art and geometry will be a delight for your eyes and the best short incursion into the magic world of architecture, design and symmetry.

How To Create Flying Food Photos

Personally, I always wondered how the flying food images where created where one could see clearly all layers of the food. Thanks to this video that is less than 6 minutes, my questions about this were finally answered!

Continue Reading…

Laura Recommends

April Recommendations

May 5, 2018

*above – a dream house from Giethoorn

I’ll keep April recommendations post short, just like I perceived this past month.

 

PLACES

De Haar Castle, Utrecht

You may remember that last month I told you about Posthoornkerk, a beautiful church in Amsterdam designed by Pierre Cuypers. This month I am including another one of Cuypers’ masterpieces: De Haar Castle. It has easily climbed all the way to the top of my favourite castles’ list due to its superb and neat gardens, red and white window shutters and bold stained glass.

 

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam

A hidden-in-plain-sight museum with a great selection of archeological and historical pieces from many areas of Europe, this museum also has a very serene inner garden with beautiful cherry trees that I had the chance to see in full bloom. Less touristic, but still a great destination, especially if you have already been to Amsterdam and crossed off the big museums.

 

Biking up north from Amsterdam

During Easter weekend I went on a bike trip up north from Amsterdam to discover small villages like Broek en Waterland, Zunderdorp, Holysloot and Randsdorp (my personal favourite – the church there is so beautiful!). To be honest, I was keen on seeing cows in the green Dutch fields, but instead I saw hares and sheep. The closest I got to cows was by drinking cow milk so at least I had that going on.

 

ARTICLES

How to make better use of everything you read

After reading many articles on speed reading, quality reading and what not related to how to read more and how to do that efficiently, this may be the best article I have stumbled across which actually gives great advice and less intuitive tips on how to make the most out of what you read but also on how to save notes for your future self.

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Laura Recommends

March Recommendations

April 2, 2018

When looking back, March seems to have gone by so fast that I couldn’t remember even reading or watching anything worth sharing with you. However, at a second glance, I made up a way longer list than what I was expecting:

BOOKS

Atlas of Beauty by Mihaela Noroc

Mihaela Noroc has been traveling the world in order to capture with her camera the many different shapes beauty takes in women. Her new book is a superb depiction of how beauty is not only on the outside and how more likely, our stories are the ones which make us shine. You can read more about her world-renowned project by having a look at her website.

 

PLACES

Museum of Little Paris, Bucharest

I wanted to keep this magical place for myself, but my desire to help push local brands eventually won. Probably the most charming apartment in the Old City Centre of Bucharest, this photo studio turned into an antiquities-lover heaven is now on its way to becoming a little museum portraying how Bucharest used to look back when it was called The Little Paris.

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LauraxELLE, travel

Jet. Set. Marrakesh!

March 29, 2018

Perhaps the foreign city I think most often of, Marrakesh has been on my bucket list for many years until I finally managed to go and I would still return there anytime. This Recommendation list reminded me of so many beautiful memories, tastes, colors and sounds that my heart was already feeling like it was there again.

As always, I want to be fair and transparent with you, so the places marked with an asterix (*) are places I have not had yet the pleasure to pay a visit, but they are still highly recommended amongst the well-traveled circle.

HOW TO GET THERE

There are no direct flights between Bucharest and Marrakesh, however, you may opt for one of the plenty trips with one stopover in Europe. Be prepared for a minimum six-hour flight, layover included.

WHAT TO DO

Walk through the Medina, the old neighbourhood which surrounds the Jemaa el-Fna square. Do that during the day for bargaining in the souq area, buying trinkets and drinking many fresh fruit juices. During the night the Jemaa el-Fna square turns into a melting pot of snake charmers, food from all corners of the world and henna-tattoo artists, whose dexterity into creating intricate designs is absolutely incredible. Also, don’t miss out on a visit to the Yves Saint Laurent museum, inaugurated in October 2017 in the vicinity of the Majorelle Garden, the famous property YSL bought together with Pierre Bergé.

For some relaxation moments, choose the spa of the La Mamounia hotel, a property of almost seven hectares nearby the famous Koutoubia mosque or savour a mint tea in the shadows of Le Jardin Secret, a central botanical garden which has been recently restored and whose origins date back to the 17th century.
Other two places you should definitely see are:

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Laura Recommends

February Recommendations

March 1, 2018

To be honest, without this blog post I would have had no idea how February passed by or what I did during this awfully short month. March already seems like a very full month, so here’s to hoping I still find some time to tackle my ever growing to-read pile of books. Until then, here is a quick list of things I enjoyed, read or listened to in the past weeks:

BOOKS

Onward – Howard Schultz with Joanne Gordon

I really loved this book. Usually business books or biographies which look at how a certain entrepreneur made it are too vague to really teach you anything beyond the usual clichés of pushing forward and thinking outside the box and just descriptive enough to make the case for a new book on the stands. This is not the case for Onward. Although it has a narrow scope (mostly looking at the years between 2007 and 2011 with few flashbacks), it is full of details, honest retellings of the harshest economical moments of the past decades and many ideas of how to build, manage and lead a culture and a company.

Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath

I love the recipe that the Heath brothers developed after analysing thousands of sticky or rather unsticky moments (to put simply, they correlate the sticky term to something or someone being memorable). They concentrated everything they learned in an essence called SUCCES – Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories, which you can apply to most of the messages you want to convey.

PODCASTS

Pardon my French

I love Garance Doré, everything she creates is utterly beautiful and emanates a very French air. I think I first discovered her illustrations, then her website and book. Her podcast, Pardon my French, featured awesome guests such as Morgane Sézalory, the founder of the famous and quintessentially Parisian brand, Sézane, and Christian Louboutin, who needs no further introduction. Both interviews, although a bit too long for my commute, were full of insights and stories I had not heard before about the two designers. I highly recommend them if you are into fashion or any other creative industry.

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