Laura Recommends

November and December Recommendations II

January 2, 2019

Happy New Year! I hope your 2018 was a good year for you and that 2019 will be even better. For those of you who thought I have abandoned my sacred monthly Recommendation project, I haven’t. It’s just that I have decided I will combine November and December into one big post (perfect for the holidays!) since these months are too crazy to pen down everything I want. You can check out here what I wrote last year during my November and December post.

 

PLACES

Escher Museum, the Hague

I visited this museum in November after complaining I haven’t really seen a lot of museums in the Hague and this quickly turned into one of my favourite ones. It definitely offered more than I have expected, starting with the permanent exhibit of Escher’s visual illusions, the superb interior with square staircases, unique chandeliers and the fantastic interactive rooms perfect for testing how deceiving our sight can be. It’s certainly a fantastic place to spend 2 to 3 hours on a rainy day in the Hague.

Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden

I had no idea about this museum until I got out of Leiden’s train station and saw an ad for an exhibit about Bali. I was instantly triggered, so that obviously became a spontaneous stop during my day in Leiden. The exhibit was very well done, with many local objects, recordings, infographics, videos and so on depicting the local Balinese customs and way of living, while also highlighting the urgency of certain issues: mass tourism, plastic pollution and globalization. Beyond this exhibit, this museum of Ethnology has permanent and temporary exhibits on most regions of the world, from Asia to North America and Australia. I have to go back, so I would definitely schedule more than 3 to 4 hours for a thorough visit.

Femmes Fatales exhibit, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

I had been waiting for this exhibit ever since I first read about it online and on my birthday I finally managed to get there with my mom. It was absolutely fantastic – from the selection of pieces and designers (all female) to the set up of the rooms and the stories behind them, this was a very tasteful exhibit which displayed more than I anticipated, so it has definitely exceeded my expectations. If you decide to go and visit it, the museum ticket also includes the entrance to the permanent exhibits (such as the one on Delftware) and temporary ones (such as Splendour and Bliss – a fantastic show of Islamic art!).

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Laura Recommends

October Recommendations II

November 3, 2018

In an extremely fortunate turn of events, after feeling that September was longer than just four weeks, October managed to feel like a month and half as well. This either means that my time machine device works or that I have become more productive and organized since I am getting so much done. Yeah, it’s probably the time machine 😉

Here is what I have loved reading, watching, listening and experiencing this month. If by the end of this article you opened dozens of tabs and you are feeling inspired to test out on your own what I have shared below, please take few seconds and give this article a share: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, WeChat or even in a good ol’ email to a friend you think might like this article. It would help me a lot!

 

BOOKS

Everything I know about love – Dolly Alderton

I laughed. I cried. I clutched the book tight to my chest. I re-read my favourite paragraphs. I took pictures of my favourite pages. I laughed some more, while in the train next to dozens of uber silent people. No shame though because this book was worth all the looks I got. Since there are too many things to say about, I’ll resume myself to say that Dolly writes fantastically well and relatable about friendship, family, womanhood, loss of close people, youth, university years, dating and much more. If my friends receive this gift from me for Christmas, I hope they act surprised.

The 24h wine expert – Jancis Robinson

One of my wishes for 2018 and also for 2019 was to learn more about wines. And while tasting is one way to learn about them, I also wanted to improve my theoretical knowledge about oenology (my inner nerd is way too excited to use this word). This short book definitely helped me out with some base knowledge, while also leaving me wanting to know more, which is what I think any good book should do. It also made me curious to read more labels at the wine aisle or local wine shop to see if I can recognize abbreviations and grape variety. Definitely a nice gift for wine lovers in the early stages of wine knowledge.

La délicatesse – David Foekinos

After I came back from France last month, I decided I want to read more books in French in order to maintain my level of understanding the language. And I am starting to feel a little mad at myself for not having done this sooner. Considering two French books cost me only 6 euros each, I should have switched to reading in French a long time ago! Budget-jokes aside, (beware, nerd moment coming through) I forgot how exciting and mind-expanding it is not to know all the words in a book – and this made me engage more with the story and truly pay close attention. Regarding the book, I found it beautiful, fragile, fun, sad, and yes, delicate and it definitely made me want to watch the movie adaptation with Audrey Tautou.

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Laura Recommends

September Recommendations II

October 7, 2018

This September felt like a double Oreo. Before you laugh, hear me out. This September felt like double the goodness for me because I genuinely felt like this past month had 60 days. And maybe it was because I managed to squeeze in not one, but two trips, finish a few books (out of which I will only be listing my favourite two below), went to uni and generally had a really good time. I can only hope that with such a great beginning of the academic year the ensuing months will be just as amazing, peaceful and well traveled. Here are some of the things I have read, watched and enjoyed in the past weeks:

 

BOOKS

The Four – Scott Galloway

I have been looking forward to reading this book for a while now and I can definitely say it has matched my expectations. Scott’s analysis, besides making you do a double take about the things you thought you knew about the Four Horsemen (Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google), is also very sharp and witty. Although an advice section is not very common within books like his, I particularly enjoyed it.

Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

Before starting this book I didn’t know much about Nike except for the swoosh anecdote and their famous Just Do It campaigns, but I feel like from now on I will be looking with very different eyes at their sneakers and fans. The story was very well written, the rhythm was much better than I thought (I seriously thought they were doing to glaze over the beginning years and just go straight to the uber successful and well known part of their history) and it felt more sincere than many other books I have read. I would have particularly liked to read more about Nike’s story development after 2007, or at least more about how Phil perceived it, but considering the less fortunate events that happened in Phil’s family, I will not complain about that.

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life

6 years of blogging

September 1, 2018

This time 6 years ago I opened my laptop and decided to start a blog. It was 2012 and people were opening blogs like crazy while sharing their links everywhere, from Facebook to Lookbook, Flickr and even Google+. They were fun times.

Although I felt there was a lot of content out there (silly me, I couldn’t have predicted the effects of social media and our current content invasion), I thought I could say something different.

In the beginning, I was sharing my outfits and pictures taken by my mom in our horribly lit house (which is how many bloggers started), my shopping hauls and various moodboards I made using pictures I found online (Pinterest was not that strong back then, so it was all up to Google Images for me). Later the shoots got a bit more complex, involving outfit changes and better locations around my hometown. You get the picture. I was a dreamy 14 year old teenager and I had this ambition to prove the people around me that even teenagers can be relevant in the fashion scene of Bucharest. I used to apply to go to as many events as I could, I went to many fashion and art courses and workshops, I got my first business cards when I was 15 and I started learning who is who in Romania.

Obviously, no one knew me (tbh, I don’t think many know me now either), but for me this didn’t matter because I was too excited to explore this new world.

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Laura Recommends

August Recommendations II

September 1, 2018

I hope you’ll read this article somewhere on a beach (it’s actually where I am heading to right now as I write these lines) or somewhere sunny, where you can still pretend it’s the 1st of June all over again.

I’m not going to write any more introductory lines because I don’t want to get sentimental over the summer break, so here are the things, places and events I loved this past month. Enjoy!

 

ARTICLES

Why songs of summer sound the same
A brilliant and interactive piece from The New York Times (and seemingly fitting for this August article) shows in a well researched and superbly illustrated manner how the songs we hear today are less diverse in sound than in other decades. It’s a fantastic and interactive piece and something that maybe you would not read in a classic blocks-of-texts way. The piece also reminded me a bit of this fantastic article written by the Wall Street Journal in which they used an algorithm to show how the lyrics in the acclaimed Hamilton musical were created.

 

VIDEOS

How feng shui shaped Hong Kong’s skyline
I never noticed in pictures how some buildings in Hong Kong have this rectangular-shape cut out, so I was fascinated when I found out why. This video is part of a VOX series called Borders and it is absolutely fantastic, so you should definitely check it out, and if you are curious about Hong Kong, there is another VOX video you should watch if you would like to know more about their culture and aesthetics based on neon and more recently, LED lights.

Rom Cons: Problematic Movie Romance Lessons
By now you probably know I am obsessed with Screenprism and this video perfectly illustrates why they create amazing content. This time they take 10 messages that romantic comedies send and decode them, showing how unhealthy and unreal are some of these rom-com ideas and behaviours. They also recently published a video about Titanic which made me do a double take because it made me look at the movie in such a different way that I may have to rewatch it for the 26th time.

10 Letters we dropped from the alphabet

All I am saying is that you should prepare yourself to be mentally blown away by some of the fun (and real!) facts in this video. Also, suddenly a lot of things will make sense, such as restaurant names like “Ye old tavern” or the backstory to why w is pronounced double u. Austin is incredibly hilarious and informative at the same time, so it’s pretty hard not to like this video 🙂

What If English Were Phonetically Consistent?

Another language-related video (yes, I fell into that nerdy Youtube wormhole) transforms into hands-down one of the hardest pronunciation exercices I have ever heard. It makes you ask yourself lots of questions about how we passively take languages as they are without second guessing if their rules actually make sense.

 

BOOKS

Buyology by Martin Lindstrom
My second Martin Lindstrom book after Small Data (which I talked about in the July Recommendations article) was maybe even better. It was fun, pleasant to follow and very intriguing at times, especially when talking about neuromarketing. It contains one inaccuracy about how the Nike logo was created, so I can’t give it 5 out of 5 stars, but it is still a great read.

Cum să fii fericit în România – Humanitas Publishing House
I bought this book called How to be happy in Romania after seeing the amazing contributing authors list. I found it so relatable, funny, diverse and unexpected that it quickly won me over and I can only hope more collections of essays like this one get published.

 

PLACES

Museum of Communication – Bern, Switzerland
Interactive, highly entertaining, displaying a large collection of pieces, and suitable for both children and adults, while catering to the needs of each group, this museum seems to have it all. Most information sections in the museum are in Swiss German, French and English, so it’s perfect even for foreigners. I loved discovering new devices and pieces of history I have previously missed and I am sure I could have easily spent more time there.

Delicii and Dolci Coni
The last days I spent in Bucharest were marked by me trying to fit in my schedule as many ice cream stops as possible. These two shops were fantastic places I never went to before, and they triggered in me a newfound love for delicious mango ice cream. Dolci Coni also makes the best lemon and basil ice cream I ever had and a fabulous passion fruit sorbet, while Delicii has some of the funkiest flavours I have ever seen, such as Black Sesame or Sunflower Seeds, which were already gone by the time I arrived there. Next time 😉

 

EVENTS

Brunch în ograda lui Moromete

While this was an event only held in Romania, I still felt the need to talk about it here, mainly because of the great idea behind it: organising brunches in small villages while activating the local communities to take part in the events by providing ingredients from their gardens, cooking, singing or dancing. I think it is a marvelous way to make some smaller places and communities in Romania more well known while also making sure that younger generations get to experience almost forgotten recipes, local dances and the idea of a rural closely knit community. The events are organized by My Secret Romania and they still have upcoming dates all the way till late September, so you can check out this link for the exact dates and locations.

Picnic & Film la Conac

I am a big fan of outdoor movies so when I heard about this event I was instantly curious. I went with my mom and before watching Haute Cuisine (a movie I also recommend, although the plot seems like it could have used more work) we got some mozzarella bites and some fajitas from the food trucks there and had an absolutely great time (after our bodies got numb from too many mosquito bites). Nonetheless it’s still one of my summer’s highlights 🙂

 

I hope your summer went just as well as you imagined and that you got as much rest as you needed.

I don’t know if I am ready yet to say goodbye to summer, but I do know it was a good one and I know I have so much to look forward to in September and onwards (including my 6 year blogging anniversary!!)

Laura

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.

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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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