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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LauraxELLE

Job title: Influencer

March 1, 2018

What is the value we bring in the lives of people who follow us? In a digital world marked by the passivity we experience in front of content (also known as content fatigue), what sort of content should we choose to produce? What are the points of difference between influencers in 2018 and what does it actually mean to be an influencer? Have we lost our own personal filter due to our desire to integrate ourselves in certain communities and false standards?

INFLUENCER = person which has the power to influence many people, mainly via social media networks or traditional media channels

They say 2017 was the year of the influencers. I would say that it was the year of the mobile window showcases. #ad #spon #blessed

Due to Instagrammers’ desire to monetize their content in front of an audience seemingly willing to be bombarded by advertorials, paid images and ads, nowadays anyone with a following bigger than a couple of thousand people gets to call themselves an influencer. Obviously, because the agencies and the companies are still in the beginning period of the Influencer Marketing era, they don’t see ill-fitted to attract on board of their campaigns people who are exact replicas of each other. These people tell the same story with their content, overwhelmingly photograph from the same perspective the watch turned to face them to announce a discount code WATCH15 and each of them addresses to almost identical crowds of users.

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LauraxELLE

Analog, Digital and the Return of Analog

February 18, 2018

I still remember the first disc I ever listened to on my dad’s pick up: it was The Little Match Girl, a story which moved me profoundly. The story seemed unique both because of the message and the sounds the machine was making which resembled the very fire sparks the little girl was dreaming about.

Although they seemed obsolete at the beginning of the 2000’s, the pick-ups, cassette players and tape recorders are making a come back, uplifting the spirits in the houses of music lovers and not only and in the process, becoming part of the lives of younger generations, many of which not remembering the days when owning such a machine would attract the neighbourhood’s envy. And it’s not just the old-school music players which are back; film cameras, printed books, typewriters and many more analogue devices once presumed dead are now reclaiming their spots in the consumer’s hearts.

The question is why? Where does this resurrection of the analog come from?

We may trace back one of the reasons of this come back to Instagram, which currently has more than 800 million monthly users. Created to mimic both the effects of film photo cameras and the instant nature of the photography process (as the app’s name indicates), initially, Instagram got its fame thanks to a unique series of filters which could have been applied to the photographs. And so, the users got to experience the unforeseen desire to use the Sutro and X-PRO filter or a hint of vignette on any image posted. Fast forward from 2010, these filters have been declared passé because they clearly show that the images are actually impostor photographs which ooze an absurd creation effort.

Continue Reading…

Laura Recommends

January Recommendations

February 4, 2018

January is not usually among my favourite months, simply because of the stay-cation-inducing weather, but this past month was probably one of the best starts I have ever had. I caught up on some films, books and series, I published and drafted lots of new articles, including this heartfelt one on vision, and I finally went to some museums I should have checked long before. I am having a good feeling about the coming months and about 2018 in general, so here’s to rocking the months ahead!

Until then, here is a wrap up of books, exhibitions, videos and lots of handy things I enjoyed this past January.

 

BOOKS

Book Depository

I recently did an online book haul and I decided to try out this website that I have heard so much before and it did not disappoint! I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical due to the heavily discounted prices and free shipping, but all my books arrived in pristine condition in 7 to 10 days, so I am more than happy and will definitely order again. One thing which bothered me a bit is that they don’t accept Maestro cards, so you should take that into account when placing an order (if it affects you).

Sapiens

I know, everybody raved about this book in the past months. Naturally, I am always curious when there is a hype this big around a book, so I read Sapiens over the second half of my winter break and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I think it is a great introductory book into the history of humankind, and I have to say the last chapter, “The End of Homo Sapiens”, was particularly good and really got my mind busy.

Start with Why

When flipping through one of my old notebooks, I realized I actually watched Simon Sinek’s wildly famous TED talk in early 2016, so it felt nice to finally read the book which became an “instant classic”, Start with Why. While Sinek may be a bit too pushy with the core idea and with his favourite vocab words, there is a lot to take away from the book, no matter if you want to start a business, if you are already leading a team/ company or if you just want to understand where to head next and how to present yourself and your purposes.

How To be Alone – Sara Maitland

“Yes, thank YOU!” and “Finally, someone said it!” are just two of the thoughts I had while reading this book. It’s full of messages I am sure lots of people think about, yet not so many say them aloud or act on them.

“Most of us have a dream of doing something in particular which we have never been able to find anyone to do with us. And the answer is simple: do it with yourself”. How elementary is this idea, yet challenging to apply in real life?

Another thing which stuck with me because it hit me only while I was reading, is this: Nowadays, we value autonomy, personal freedom, independence, self fulfillment and individualism more than ever, yet we still shame solitude. John Oliver would definitely say “How is this still a thing?”

 

MOVIES AND SERIES

Persepolis

If you have not watched Persepolis, do that right now. I got the graphic novels of Marjane Satrapi two years ago and I thought they were enough in order to understand her story, yet nothing prepared me for the harshness, the joy, the anger and the overall emotional roller coaster this animation is. So relatable at times, yet so hard to digest the reality that wars, power abuse and revolutions are still harming people and destroying homes.

Loving Vincent

To cheer you up a bit, this movie is on the list because I have never seen something so exquisite until now. To give you some context, this film is about the life and death of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh as told through his paintings. Yes, the entire (!!) movie was hand painted in his style based on the works he left from his nine (just 9!!) years as an artist. Dozens of artists gave their best to make this happen over multiple years, so you should definitely see it! What’s more is that it just got an Oscar nomination so act fast before you cannot engage with your friends in an post Oscars-worthiness discussion*.

– also, the final song was so beautiful and touching it left me in tears (you can listen to it here, if you need a good reason to shed some tears)

*haters will say the actors’ accents are not accurate and that the story is not complex or vivid enough, but we can never be pleased, can we?

The Crown

Only after watching this series have I realized how little I knew of the Royal British family. If you are interested in history, British culture and tremendous acting, you should start watching this as soon as possible. Try not to binge watch everything in one day, OK?

 

HANDY

Rescue Time

In January I promised myself I will be more attentive with the time spent on Internet (which is why I deleted Facebook from my phone!) and I found this browser ad-on very helpful in counting the hours I waste spend on certain sites. It also records your average daily number of productive hours, so that is also pretty helpful.

On Multitasking – The Cost of Continuously Checking Email (via Harvard Business Review)

This article, which takes you less than 10 minutes to read and fully digest, has such a powerful analogy in it that I had to share it:

“Suppose each time you ran low on an item in your kitchen—olive oil, bananas, napkins—your instinctive response was to drop everything and race to the store. How much time would you lose? How much money would you squander on gas? What would happen to your productivity?

We all recognize the inefficiency of this approach. And yet surprisingly, we often work in ways that are equally wasteful.” – Ron Friedman on multitasking

Optical Character Recognition (via Office One Note)

OK, this trick may sound fancy, but it is so so helpful! Recently I had to transcribe a lot of text from images (particularly print screens) and I dreaded doing it. However, thanks to this Office help page, I learned that if you insert an image in an Office One Note file, you can right-click on it and select “Copy Text from Picture”. How NEAT is this?!

Google Docs transcribing tip (via Quartz)

Another awesome trick I learned in January is that you can transcribe vocal files easier if you dictate them to Google Docs. Much easier than typing down everything!

 

VIDEOS

The world organized by incomeAnna Rosling Rönnlund

This recent TED talk shed so much light on how, on a global scale, we are not that different from one another. Turns out, it is not necessarily culture, but money that creates the boundaries between us. Please watch this to get a different perspective on your own life and wealth and on how similar we all are.

How Atomic Bombs can Uncover Forged Art

I just discover the “It’s Okay To Be Smart” YouTube channel and this video is a great example of how you can teach people something very cool about art and forgery while making it light and fun to watch along.

 

EXTRA

Legendary Trunks exhibition, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam

Although I am cheating a bit because I saw this exhibition in February, it is on just until the 18th, so I figured, if you want to see it you should know about it. What is this about and why should you go if you’re in town? It’s the work of a Louis Vuitton trunks collector who managed to bring together the suitcases of Gustave Eiffel, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Judy Garland, Ernest Hemingway and so many more together with unique pieces of trunks for flower bouquets, casino nights and even caviar! It’s learning about history in some of the most pleasant ways ever!

 

Hope you got inspired and if you do test out some of the things listed in my Recommendation series, do let me know!

Have a fantastic February,

Laura

 

Photo by Cynthia de Luna on Unsplash

life

I have lost my vision

January 23, 2018

No, not my eyesight.

I have lost my vision in the sense that I feel as if I am floating in an endless sea, mindlessly drifting from one thing which comes my way to the other. I seem to have lost the bigger picture of my life and my career (can I say that? “career”. Do I have that? After all, I am just 20 and still in school, so, can I?). It seems to me as if I had had this vision once, as if I knew where I was going, what I was doing and what steps would follow. After all, I think I knew what I was doing when I chose to move abroad and when I chose living and studying in Amsterdam. But, somewhere on the road, after those moments, the picture got blurry, and eventually, I found myself not only not remembering what was my vision, but also not knowing what I want to do next.

I realized we have no direction or control whatsoever on our lives. Yes, this was news to me. I was somehow still believing in this deterministic ideal and it proved faulty. No wonder. I also became aware that whenever I seem to lose the faint grip I have on my storyline, I panic and I go into this desperate, hyperventilating mood in which I jump at all opportunities that arise, even though they seem wrong from the start. What’s more, I undervalue myself. And so I accept doing things which are not bringing enough into my life.

For the past months, I have been relying on inertia, achieving things out of what seems to me a lucky strike of coincidence and convergence of lines, people and hazard. And I know this is wrong. Because I am the only one behind my actions, the one who made them all possible. But I just can’t seem to enjoy it. I do a ten seconds celebratory dance and then I start wishing for more. Which is deeply toxic, if I am being allowed to point out the obvious.

I am in my very early twenties and I already had a career crisis. *eye roll I thought I had enough of fashion, publishing and social media work. *double-eye roll Although liking them, I felt trapped. I felt as if I had already seen my future: an unemployed self-employed contributing editor and social media assistant working here and there, earning just enough money to make a living. I am sorry. I am not deeming this lifestyle bad or inferior, it’s just not what I had imagined for myself. What have I imagined, you may ask? I don’t know. Maybe I was picturing myself already laying the foundation of my own business or already being financially independent. Guess the whole Self-Made legend got to me.

It may take me one more week or a few more months to get back at it, to see again how the dots connect with each other and how the decisions I have made so far lead me to my bigger picture, but for now, all I wish for is a pair of glasses that would show me what I should do next.

And I know this is not the typical story you read or want to read since it does not have a clear ending or an inspirational resolution, but I think it’s important to keep it real.

Yours,

Laura

*collage by yours truly

LauraxELLE, travel

Jet. Set. Amsterdam!

January 12, 2018

As a proud adopted-Amsterdammer, it was about time I shared my favourite places in the Dutch capital, along with some little secrets. You may find all of them below in this adapted post from an article I wrote for ELLE  Romania.

HOW TO GET THERE:

There are four daily flights from Bucharest Henri Coandă (OTP) to Amsterdam Schiphol (AMS) operated by TAROM and KLM, so you have where to choose from.

WHAT TO DO:

Although the Dutch don’t have a vast gastronomical culture, they compensate very well with pastry products, sweets and coffee. Among my recommendations there are the white chocolate core biscuits from Van Stapele Koekmakerij, the almond creme croissants and lemon tarts from Simon Meijssen and the coffee from CT Coconuts, TOKI, Scandinavian Embassy, Bocca Coffee and Lot Sixty One.

During this whole sweet journey, don’t forget to discover the beauty of the canals by boat, explore the Albert Cuypstraat market, walk through VondelPark, Holland’s biggest park, visit A’Dam Toren, which hosts Europe’s highest swing and go through Bloemenmarkt, the only floating flower market in the world.

WHAT TO SEE:

Gathering under the same roof thousands of masterpieces from the Golden Age and not only, Rijksmuseum is a constant presence in global museum tops, alongside another one you will adore: Van Gogh Museum. The entrance to both museums can be facilitated also by electronic tickets or by the I Amsterdam card. Besides those two touristy landmarks, you should also go to some less known places:

Cinema Pathé Tuschinski
One of the most beautiful cinemas you will ever see, Tuschinski has been functioning since 1921, stunning movie-goers with its Art Deco and Art Nouveau design. The movies are not dubbed, so you don’t have to worry if you don’t know Dutch.

Tassenmuseum Hendrikje
What happens when you work in the field of antiques and you end up owning a collection of more than 5000 bags? You open a museum. This is the story behind the biggest museum of bags and purses in the world. *Must see

Eye Film Museum
For all lovers of film, contemporary architecture and not only, the newest residence of the Dutch Film Museum, opened in 2012, is definitely worth paying a visit. To get to the OZN-like building it’s necessary only to go on a free three minutes ferry ride from Central Station to Buiksloterdijk.

WHERE TO STAY:

Pulitzer

Being newly renovated in 2016, Pulitzer Hotel is made out of 25 interconnected canal houses. As Amsterdam’s XVII century canal network is part of UNESCO world heritage, the houses couldn’t have been modified on the outside, but inside there is a whole labyrinth of rooms. Antique Collector’s Suite and Book Collector’s Suite are probably the most beautiful rooms in Amsterdam.

The Dylan

Also located inside the canal ring, the Dylan is a hotel in the proximity of De Negen Straatjes area (a little quartier made of literally Nine Little Streets) famous for its small boutiques, artisanal spaces, cozy restaurants and shops with local products. Having a French specific restaurant, views over the canals and an elegant decor with traditional Dutch accents, it would be very tough for this hotel not to please you.

BEST TIME TO VISIT:

Starting with the last weeks of April, when the Tulip Fever begins at the Keukenhof Gardens and its surroundings and until the end of October, when the days are already too short.

 

You may also want to check out:

Bar Botanique

Brouwerij het Ij

Tropenmuseum

Hortus Botanicus (one of Europe’s oldest botanical gardens – 379 years)

Hermitage Amsterdam

Museum Van Loon

Museum ons Lieve Op Soldier

And of course, Anne Frank House

 

This article originally appeared in ELLE Romania, December 2017 Issue, number 241