Monday, September 30, 2013

Where to next?

I am always thinking about where I want to go next. Always.

I have a rule that I MUST got to at least one new country each year. I do tend to repeat a lot, but there has to be at least one new one each year.

So here are the (new) places I want to go soon. Gotta pick one for this coming year!!!!
  • Turkey
  • Hungary 
  • Croatia
  • Vietnam
  • Cambodia
  • Russia
  • Morocco
  • Egypt
  • South Africa
  • Jordan
  • Norway
  • Australia (will have to wait until I can really afford to take like two full weeks to do this - probably after my MBA program is done)
  • New Zealand (will have to wait until I can really afford to take like two full weeks to do this - probably after my MBA program is done)

And let's not even get into the list of places I want to go back to. That could get very long!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Top 10 Reasons I LOVE Amazing Race

  1. You get to travel the world!
  2. Chance to win $1million!
  3. Opportunity to do some really amazing things in a safe environment - bungie jumping, paragliding, base jumping, scuba diving, etc.
  4. Chance to take part in local cultures and traditions.
  5. The dynamics of the various couples.
  6. Opportunity to win smaller prizes throughout.
  7. Once in a lifetime experience!
  8. Phil!
  9. The fast pace.
  10. The opportunity to watch and comment and say "I could have done that way better/faster/smarter."

Hmmmm. I was writing the list and realized that I was mostly listing "the top 10 reasons I want to be on The Amazing Race." This year, as soon as that application opens, I am signing up. Oh dear!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

When I grow up ...

When I grow up, I want to ...


What do I want?

And when will I actually be "grown up"?

And do I even want to be?

I'm 28. I have a great job as an Assistant IMC Manager at a leading US and international CPG company. I have an amazing family that I get to see often. Great friends who I enjoy spending time with. A fabulous loft (with a great price and 2 year lease) that is absolutely perfect for me. Fun hobbies that I am passionate about and get to indulge in. A body that this year I finally figured out and am working my way back to after a summer hiatus. I am moving forward with my MBA and am over halfway done. I am independent. I have access to all the things I enjoy doing - movies, arts, theater, dining, etc. And I have the opportunity to travel the world on a pretty regular basis.

My life is good. It really really really is. Please don't think otherwise. Please don't think that just because it is not your life that something is wrong. Please done judge me. I am happy.

But I'm 28. And that is a bit scary. In two years I have a lot of decisions to make and a lot of things that will all come to a head at once. I will complete my MBA and turn 30 within about a month of each other. The lease on my loft will end soon there-after. And I hit my 7 year anniversary with my company. That's a lot. Did I mention I turn 30?

So is that when I'm grown up? Is that when I am supposed to have it figured out? Should I know by then?

I don't know.

What I do know is that I am very happy with my life. Here is what else I know: I am great at living in the now, I am good at planning for an end goal, and I am ok at taking the steps to reach those goals. When the steps to reach that goal are tangible, daily, and routine, I excel. When they are grey and not tangible, I suffer. What does that mean? If I set a goal to lose 35 pounds in 3 months - I can 100% do it (and I did). If I set a goal to figure what to do when I turn 30 - I don't really know where to start.

Time to put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard) and start figuring a few things out.

Movie Review | Don Jon

Let's first get over the elephant in the room. Don Jon is partially about (and features a fair amount of) porn. Gasp. Shocking. What? Craziness.

This writing and directorial debut from Joseph Godeon-Levitt is the story of a Jersey boy who is all about "my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn." The movie is an honest, and at times comic, look at Jon's life while he navigates a new relationship with his "dime" girlfriend portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. (Side note, a "dime" is a perfect 10 woman ... get it?). Julianne Moore is a somewhat older woman who helps Jon see what he is missing in life. And through it all, there is the porn.

Underneath it all, Don Jon is a story about the media we consumer - whatever it is - and how much it can impact our lives and our relationships. Whether it is the porn that Jon is obsessed with or the ro-coms that Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett) worships, the media we consumer infiltrates and becomes our reality. And the question becomes - what happens when real life doesn't measure up?

A strong directorial debut by Goron-Levitt and well acted by all. I don't much like Scarlett, but she nailed it! 

My 0.02€ - it's not for everyone, but if you like JGL, can get over the porn thing, and want an honest movie, it is worth your time 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

(Good) Movie season is finally here

Finally, it is that time of year when the good movies start coming out. One of many things I love about fall! This weekend, to me, marks the unofficial start of that season with Rush and Don Jon. Then Gravity next weekend. And so on ... and so forth ... etc ... etc (King and I reference ...).

We all know how much I love movies, so I won't bore anyone with the details. But, I will bore you with a list of the movies I am really looking forward to. Enjoy:

  • September 27
    • Rush
    • Don Jon
    • Enough Said
  • October 4
    • Gravity
    • Runner Runner
    • Parkland
  • October 11
    • Captain Philips
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Design is One
  • October 18
    • The Fifth Estate
    • 12 Years a Slave
    • All is Lost
  • October 25
    • The Counselor
  • November 1
    • Enders Game
    • About Time
    • Mr. Nobody
    • Diana
  • November 8
    • Thor: The Dark World
  • November 15
    • The Wolf of Wall Street
    • The Book Thief
  • November 22 
    • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • November 27
    • Grace of Monaco
  • December 6
    • Out of the Furnace
    • Inside Llewyn Davis
    • The Last Day on Mars
  • December 13
    • Saving Mr Banks
    • American Hustle
  • December 18
    • The Monuments Men
    • The New Rijksmuseum
  • December 20
    • Foxcatcher (I think this just got moved to a 2014 release though)
  • December 25
    • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
    • August: Osage County
    • The Physician

One note of disappointment: fall semester started so I am missing out on screenings because they all seem to fall on my Tuesday and Thursday class nights. Grrrr. Missed screenings for Don Jon and Gravity. Very sad. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

3 small shifts that can make a big difference

Read a recent Huff Post article called "3 Reminders for Times You Feel Stuck and Unmotivated" and it really stuck with me. Really simple shifts in thinking that make a lot of sense. I have been thinking about them throughout the week and I can definitely small shifts when I consider them.

Think about these ...

1. Ditch the "should" and replace with "would like to"

  • "Should" can be negative, sounds like a task you don't want to do. But "would like to" is much more positive.
  • I should go the gym ... I would like to go the gym.
  • I should wake up early ... I would like to wake up early.
  • I should eat my apple instead of visiting the candy bowl ... I would like to eat my apple instead of visiting the candy bowl. (haha, ok, let's face it ... that is a total lie on this one ... I would totally like to visit the candy bowl ...)

2. Replace "can't" with "I choose not to"

  • Another really smart one. "Can't" implies that you have no control in the matter, that you are physically unable to. Not the case. "Choose not to" puts the ownership on you!
  • I can't go to the gym today ... I choose not to go to the gym. 
  • I can't find time to pack my lunch everyday ... I choose not to find the time to pack my lunch everyday.
  • I can't resist the red velvet cupcake ... I choose not to resist the red velvet cupcake.

3. Remind yourself that "If I consistently work on my goals, even if it's in baby steps, I will inevitably be closer to the results that I want."

  • True of many things in life and definitely one I struggle with. I like to see instant results and feel like I am making progress. I would rather sit down for a full day and work on a project from start to finish rather than do it for an hour over the course of a week. Story of my life ... many aspects of my life. There are times when this works just fine, and others when I need to take a step back.
  • Even half an hour at the gym is better than nothing. Just because I cannot do my full 1-2 hours doesn't mean the 30 minutes I CAN do are worthless.  

A lovely fall day

This is what a perfect day is like. Good weather. Lunch with girlfriends. a Ride on the greenway down to Calhoun followed by a walk around the lake. A refreshing italian soda while sitting lake side and reading a good book. A trip to the gym. A good meal. And then sitting down with a good movie.

Life is good.

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it ...

In the words of Beyonce ... "if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it ..."

And if you ARE gonna put a ring on it, it should be super unique. Huff Post published this article  about unique engagement rings. Some of them are nice and I like the use of colored stones, but they are not that unique.

I don't know, I just am not the big diamond engagement ring kinda gal. Never really understood saving that much money for a diamond when I don't feel like that is even my style. I mean, check out the photo below, this is way more who I am in terms of rings. I NEVER leave the house without the lighter blue round one. Never. I have turned around for it. It goes everywhere with me. Only around the house and at the gym do I go without it.

I think it is also a cultural thing. I think engagement rings are just now starting to be a thing in Romania, so my mom never had one. She had this gold ring that was a gift and then her engagement band, but no engagement ring. I didn't grow up with that idea of a diamond. My lack of enthusiasm for a traditional diamond ring also probably stems from my lack of enthusiasm for anything normal-wedding related. Don't get me wrong - I am happy to attend and celebrate my friend's and family's happiness, but I just know I will never have that kind of wedding. Family and a few close friends for a week at a villa on a lake in northern Italy in the Dolomites ... that's for me. Just happen to have a ceremony one night and get married. Done.

BUT ... if I were ever to get a diamond, it would have to be the one below. Non-traditional? Unique? Hell yes! I saw this advertisement in Vogue back in high school when I was on my way to Europe somewhere for the summer. Fell in love. Tore it out and saved it, had it ever since. Folded up, sitting with a packet of other special random stuff. Isn't it pretty???? So different!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And so it ends (and begins)

I've been absent.

Ooooops. My bad.

But, dear reader(s), does anyone actually care? I often wonder who is actually reading this. Who cares enough about my little life to take the time to pay attention (besides my mom ... hi mom). But in the end, I don't really care. Because I don't do this for "you". I do this for "me". I do this to have a record. To remember. To remind myself of the good times ... and the bad. And to have a place to share what I am thinking ... even if it is just with my computer. Often times I find it easier to write than to speak aloud ... especially about certain topics.

And so here I am after a few months hiatus. Ready to stat up again ... and hopefully keep it up. I was doing pretty well before, so what is stopping me now?

So ... summer. It flew by. Really really fast. But it was a good one. One for the records I would venture to say. What happened, you may ask. Well, dear reader, allow me to share. I will go in chronological order ...

It all started in the ... 

I know, I know. Spring isn't summer. But I feel like that is the appropriate place to start. Or maybe fall would be appropriate ... I digress. Anyway, the spring was amazing and it flew by too. After a somewhat harsh fall from a personal and work perspective, I got my life fully on track cold turkey starting January 22. Work. School. Diet. Excersise. It all came together. I have said before, but I really am an "all or nothing" person, and the spring was definitly about the "all". I found a really good groove and stuck to it. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't always easy. I was taking some very difficult classes for my MBA and wasn't getting much sleep, but after only a week I felt simply amazing. And looked amazing. I am proud to say that 37.6 pounds in 16.5 weeks. Not bad ... not bad at all. All the weight loss and structure to my life was definitely for me ... but it was also all leading up to a milestone.

Which leads me to the  ... 

Wedding in Romania in May
In May my family headed back home to Bucharest for a momentous occasion - the wedding of one of our closest family friends' daughter. Great family, great woman. Love them, truly. It had been about 15 months since we had last been back and it was great to see everyone and spend time with my family. Since it isn't something I get to do often, it is time I truly cherish. Romanian culture is definitely a food and eating culture, so it was a bit challenging to keep up my full blown diet, but I did much better than in the past. And I went running in the AM 5 days out of the 7 we were there. The days were long though ... and even longer for me since I was waking up 1.5 hours before my parents to go for my run. Wake up, run, shower, get ready for the day, go to grandparents for visiting/lunch, go somewhere else, go to other grandparents for visiting/dinner, go somewhere else, etc, etc. The the two days of the wedding (yes ... two) were amazing, but long as well. The second day, the religious ceremony, started with a run ... then getting ready at the brides house, the 1 hour church ceremony, then reception until 6AM. Yup ... Romanian weddings are a party. The bride and groom are a great couple. It was great to experience a Romanian wedding and also meet and talk with friends of my parent's from college and high school, and to see THEM have such a great time connecting with their friends. Oh ... and my dress was AMAZING!!! Shopped for two days straight and it was like dress #63 I tried on ... but it was worth the $$$s and the time. So in love with it!

Then it was back to reality during the month of July which included ...

A new job
At my company our roles are rotational within my program. So about every 18-24 months we switch roles and get a new perspective, new challenges, etc. I was at 25 months in my current role and was rotated (literally) two days before leaving for Romania. The new job is great and I spend the month of July getting on board, learning, and being part of an all-hands-on-deck event mid-month that we plan an execute at HQ. It was a crazy month with this event.

And while I was doing all this I was also going through an ... 

Apartment search
At the same time, I had just received my lease notification and management wanted to take my rent up $200! Ummm, no. My apartment is big and amazing and I like it, but it is not worth that much more. I have been there for 5 years and am a great renter, but the location and building and management are terrible. Also, there has been numerous break-ins into the garage recently and at first management didn't even tell us, then they didn't do anything about it. Heck no. So, I started searching. And subsequently quickly freaked out because my size apartment (2 bedroom, 1100 square feet) in a better neighborhood would cost me twice as much as what i pay now. Which I cannot afford. So ... do I lose (a lot of) square footage and a second bedroom and put stuff into storage so I can have a great location? Or ... what? I am not moving to the burbs. Visited a few places with no decision. Looked at my sites for new constructions. And trolled craigslist. No luck. UNTIL ... one night after a storm that blew out the power for days I had internet for literally like 5 hours and managed to find an apartment on Craigslist I feel in love with. And proceeded to see it 2 days later. And put my application in that night. And get the apartment the next day. And sign the lease the day after that. BOOM! Done. That's how I roll. Better location, amazing views of the city, 12 floor, converted warehouse space, great character, owner condos for higher quality and control, great building, same size as my current space, and the same rent as the increased one on my new place (BUT totally worth the little extra).

And the added rent wasn't a huge deal because the day after I signed the lease ...

I got promoted at work
Yup. I got promoted. Assistance Manager. Woot woot. Feels great to be recognized.

And with everything else going on, I ... 

Started dating again 
After taking a brief hiatus for two months from dating (and the disappoint of the spring) I got back into dating. A lot of first dates in June... but nothing great. The week I toured/signed for the apartment I also had three dates in three days after work. Busy girl ...

Then two days after signing my new lease and one day after getting promoted (and one month exactly after getting back from Romania) ... 

I went abroad again for 10 days ... to Asia!
More travel! 4 days in Singapore and 5 days in Japan. Amazzzzzing! I had been to Singapore 4 times before, but not since 2008, and A LOT has changed since then. We also got to see our amazing friends who just had a little girl that my parents are the god-parents to and I am the god-sister to! Sooo cute! Was great to go around to all our old favorite places in Singapore and check out the new things in the city. Such an amazing place, I would totally move there. Then we headed up to Japan. I said from the beginning that if we go to Singapore we have to also stop somewhere we had not been before. And although I had traveled through Tokyo lots (Narita being the hub for all Asian locations), I had never left the airport. There were many things about Japan I liked: the people, the culture, the little niceties and random quirky things (like baskets on the floor at restaurants to put your bags in), the proliferation of Coke Zero, the amazing food, etc. Overall, it was great, but Tokyo is VERY spread out and it is hard to really get a good feel for the city and see too much. We did go to Kyoto one day (on the bullet train!) and saw more of the old Japan - but that's a whole different story.

Which leads me to ...

My 28th birthday spent in the Hakone region of Japan
Celebrated my birthday in the Mt Fuji area of Japan. Took a train to that area, followed by a bus to a little town on lake where we took a boat across the lake. Then up a funicular. Then down the hill on a cog train. And back to Tokyo on a regular train. The dinner and ice cream! Happy birthday to me!

And then it was ... 

Back to Minneapolis and a busy July
Got back to MSP and it was back in gear. My promotion was publicly announced at work, I was getting more into the day-to-day of my new job, and going out on some great dates. Spending time with friends and family, enjoying the weather, packing up my apartment, doing new stuff in the city. All good things. AND I bought my first really really nice piece of furniture - amazing Room & Board sectional with chaise!! Love at first sight.

Then soon enough it was time for some more travel to ...

San Francisco
I went to San Fran for work for two days and decided to stay on for three days on the weekend. Great choice. My other two trips had been go-go-go. This was down time, me time. A good chance to recharge. Stayed right on the warf, walked a lot, went for morning runs down the water front on Chrissy field to the Golden Gate Bridge, sat in restaurants with my book, went to the America's Cup sailing races, and walked walked walked. It was a great weekend. And, I got to go see Justin Timberlake and Jay Z in the Legends of Summer Tour. Amazing.


And in addition to JT and Jay Z, I also added to my concert list by going to ...

More concerts in MSP
One of my NYE resolutions was to see more live music. Been doing a good job all year, but then I had three awesome weekends in a row. #1 - Skylar Grey @ Icehouse. #2 - JT and Jay Z @ San Fran. #3 - Postal Service @ Roy Wilkins.

The came the craziness of August with ...

More travel to fabulous Indianapolis, Cincinnati and San Antonio
Three consecutive weeks of Monday-Tuesday travel to these exotic locations. Enough said. But the events were fun!

Then came my first ever visit to the ...

Minnesota State Fair
Finally got dragged. It was interesting, but I think I am good never going again. Ate lots, but my favorite was the cheese-stuffed, deep fried green olives. Unique.

And finally it was time to ...

Move apartments
Over Labor weekend I took 5 days to paint and move. Yeah, it had to basically get 100% done because I don't like to not have things in their place and school started right away on Tuesday, so I had to be good. So we painted hard for two days. We painted 1100 square feet of apartment with 13 foot ceilings. This is NOT easy. This involves very tall ladders and roller extension handles and three hours of sleep and not being able to feel you hands and your hands actually being so raw from the roller handle that even running warm water on them is painful. Yeah. The movers came on Friday and I nearly had a heart attach when it took them nearly 5 hours to do the move. Yeah ... there goes nearly $1000 just for the movers (and we moved A LOT of boxes ourselves too). Then came three days of putting it all together. Organizing, assembling, buying, hanging, EVERYTHING. But the apartment is done and it is so amazing and perfect and ME and great that I cannot even begin to explain.

Then came Tuesday and ...

Class started
I am now officially over half done with my MBA. This semester's classes are really interesting: International Marketing and International Strategy & Organization. I'm looking forward to them!

And ...

So ...

Here we are. Or ... here I am, really. September already almost half over (what!) and still in awe over this summer. Can't wait for more adventures. Really looking forward to seeing where the next few months will take me!!! This year has been an amazing whirlwind and I wanna finish it right! And then start a new one off just the same!

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