Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 | Year in Review



It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Pretty sure that's from a book. Tale of Two Cities?

Wherever the quote may come from it definitely rings true this year. Like every year, this one had its ups, its downs, its excitement, its defeats, its joys, its panics, and its everything-in-between. But perhaps this year felt more stressed and harder than years of the past. Perhaps I will venture to say this year hit me a little harder, had more struggles. Of course it had its awesome moments too, times of adventure and excitement, and great time with family. But this year also had moments that tested my will, my ability to cope, and my strength. And while I haven't yet figured everything out, these moments of stress have taught me anout myself and have challenged me to look deep and question some things and make some important descion said about my future. I'm ready for 2015 to be over, and very excited to see what 2016 has in store!

But before we turn the calendar page (which reminds me: note to self - order new 2016 calendar for work), how about a quick run down of 2015? The good ... The bad ... The everything (or at least everything I'm willing to put in print). Links to some of the posts included ... 
  • Made some more great memories with my awesome family, both abroad and at home. 
  • Spent 10 days roadtripping around Spain and going to some of my favorite places as well as exploring new places. 
  • Visited my family in Romania. 
  • Got to visit Istanbul - a city I've been anxious to visit for soooooo long! Mosques, the bazar, the waterways, the food!
  • Visited Colorado twice and got to take in the fresh air and mountains, and see my oldest friend marry an amazing guy that's perfect for her!
  • Went to Seattle to spend Christmas with some great friends, and got to explore a bit of Seattle/the Pacific Northwest while there. 
  • Celebrated with my friends as they took on all sorts of new adventures - marriage, engagements, babies, birthdays ...
  • Celebrated my own 30th birthday!
  • Saw lots and lots of great movies (and some not so great movies). 
  • Went to New York City and finally got to check off a bunch of the tourist things to do in the city. 
  • Got a new tattoo. "Just breathe" on the inside of my right bicep. That makes three total tattoos. 
  • Explored the twin cities and partook in fun activities - the loppet, various art fairs, hiking at Taylor's falls, apple picking, red bull crashed ice, the all night art party, the ice castles ...
  • Started seeing a great guy, which fizzled out. But it was fun while it lasted! 
  • Lost a bunch of weight (again) and felt great that I was able to do it - felt confident and strong. 
  • But then gained it (and then some) back and haven't been able to get back on track. 
  • Challenged myself to do Whole30 and managed to do it for 50 days! No sugar, pop, alcohol, dairy, grains ...
  • Got into yoga at CorePower and am really enjoying it ... and am doing pretty well in C2. 
  • Got a bike and started biking around the great Minneapolis trails. 
  • Continued volunteering at the Walker Art Center
  • Felt appreciated ...
  • Felt scarred and anxious ... 
  • Felt overwhelmed ...
  • Made some mistakes that I regret. 
  • Said some things I wish i wouldn't have. 
  • Didn't do some things that I regret not doing.
There were many great moments and many good "things" that happened, and those cant be taken away. But there were many feelings and emotions in between that cast a shadow on some of the year. But I'm moving through them, learning, growing. 

So thanks 2015, I've learned a lot. 

Let's get 2016 going strong!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Golden Globe Nominations

Better late then never ....

Golden Globe nominations are out and I cannot wait for awards season to start!


I would say that it has been a pretty good season for the movies, though maybe not as good overall as some of the past. But all in all, some really great films came out this year! I have seen a lot of them (of course), but still have a few to go before I can feel confident in my picks for the winners! Below are the nominations ... but no predictions yet. I've marked (for myself) which I have still to see before awards season!

Big films I have yet to see:

  • Mad Max (I'll rent it sometime this week probably)
  • The Revenant (it hasn't come out yet in Minneapolis ... not my fault)
  • Room (I'll hopefully see it sometime this week)
  • Brooklyn (might need to wait for DVD at this point)
  • Hateful Eight (I'll see it this week)
  • Trumbo (might need to wait for DVD at this point)
  • Lady in the Van (might need to wait for DVD at this point)
  • Grandma (might need to wait for DVD at this point)
  • Youth (might need to wait for DVD at this point)
  • Danny Collins (probably won't see it ...)
  • Animated films (probably won't see them ...)

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
CAROL
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
THE REVENANT
ROOM
SPOTLIGHT

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
CATE BLANCHETT - CAROL
BRIE LARSON - ROOM
ROONEY MARA - CAROL
SAOIRSE RONAN - BROOKLYN
ALICIA VIKANDER - THE DANISH GIRL

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
BRYAN CRANSTON - TRUMBO
LEONARDO DICAPRIO - THE REVENANT
MICHAEL FASSBENDER - STEVE JOBS
EDDIE REDMAYNE - THE DANISH GIRL
WILL SMITH - CONCUSSION

BEST MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
THE BIG SHORT
JOY
THE MARTIAN
SPY
TRAINWRECK

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
JENNIFER LAWRENCE - JOY
MELISSA MCCARTHY - SPY
AMY SCHUMER - TRAINWRECK
MAGGIE SMITH - THE LADY IN THE VAN
LILY TOMLIN - GRANDMA

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – MUSICAL OR COMEDY
CHRISTIAN BALE - THE BIG SHORT
STEVE CARELL - THE BIG SHORT
MATT DAMON - THE MARTIAN
AL PACINO - DANNY COLLINS
MARK RUFFALO - INFINITELY POLAR BEAR

BEST MOTION PICTURE – ANIMATED
ANOMALISA
THE GOOD DINOSAUR
INSIDE OUT
THE PEANUTS MOVIE
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE
JANE FONDA - YOUTH
JENNIFER JASON LEIGH - THE HATEFUL EIGHT
HELEN MIRREN - TRUMBO
ALICIA VIKANDER - EX MACHINA
KATE WINSLET - STEVE JOBS

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN ANY MOTION PICTURE
PAUL DANO - LOVE & MERCY
IDRIS ELBA - BEASTS OF NO NATION
MARK RYLANCE - BRIDGE OF SPIES
MICHAEL SHANNON - 99 HOMES
SYLVESTER STALLONE - CREED

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
TODD HAYNES - CAROL
ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU - THE REVENANT
TOM MCCARTHY - SPOTLIGHT
GEORGE MILLER - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
RIDLEY SCOTT - THE MARTIAN

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE
EMMA DONOGHUE - ROOM
TOM MCCARTHY,  JOSH SINGER - SPOTLIGHT
CHARLES RANDOLPH, ADAM MCKAY - THE BIG SHORT
AARON SORKIN - STEVE JOBS
QUENTIN TARANTINO - THE HATEFUL EIGHT

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE
CARTER BURWELL - CAROL
ALEXANDRE DESPLAT - THE DANISH GIRL
ENNIO MORRICONE - THE HATEFUL EIGHT
DANIEL PEMBERTON - STEVE JOBS
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO, ALVA NOTO - THE REVENANT

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE
“LOVE ME LIKE YOU DO” — FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
“ONE KIND OF LOVE” — LOVE & MERCY
“SEE YOU AGAIN” — FURIOUS 7
“SIMPLE SONG #3” — YOUTH
“WRITING'S ON THE WALL” — SPECTRE

Movie Review | Carol

  

A wonderful film, truly. I can 100% understand why the film is nominated for so many Golden Globes - including Best Film (Drama) and Best Actress (both Mara and Blanchett) and Best Director. Because ... it definitely deserves all of those nominations. 

The story in itself is touching and beautiful. It is so well told and beautiful executed by the actors, director, costume designers ... everyone involved. And at the center are these two amazing charter actors. Cate Blanchett is the absolute epitome of sophistication, elegance, and knowledge of who she is and what she wants. And Rooney Mara is the perfect opposite (yet compliment) with her shy naivete and insecurity, yet hidden depth and understanding.

Carol is quietly powerful. It pulls you along minute by minute and draws you in with beautiful shots and a beautiful story that asks some important questions and brings up important topics. 

All in all, a great film that I would highly recommend (though if you aren't as movie obsesses as I am, i would say this one is OK to wait for rental since you don't gain much by seeing it on the big screen). 



Now and Then | The Pacific Beach 5 Years Apart

Same place, 5 years apart. Top: 2010. Bottom: 2015. Up in the Pacific Northwest about 45 minutes north of Ocean Shores. Such a beautiful area! And some amazing driftwood (obvi). 


How Cute Are My Parents?

Sooooo cute.

Mom and Dad in Istanbul at the Blue Mosque. November 2015. #TurkeyForTurkeyDay

Life ... According to my Desktop Photos

I have a tendency to work on some photos and then save to my desktop because I'm too lazy to properly file them. The originals are there ... properly saved and organized. But then there are all these random photos on my desktop! Thought it might be fun to share some of the randomness. 

Iceland. 2010.
Cadiz, Spain. 2015.
Minnesota (time unknown)
Singapore. 2005 (I think ... maybe 2007).
Minnesota. Year unknown. 
Singapore. 2013 (for my birthday!).
Barcelona, Spain. 2015.
Minnesota. TC 10K. 2013.
Bern, Switzerland. 2014.
Cadiz, Spain. 2015.
Paris. 2013.
Budapest. 2014.
Los Angeles. 2014.
Romania. 1987 (?).
Chicago. 1995.
Malaysia. 2007.
Minnesota. North Shore. 2014.

Oh Christmas Tree


My family may skip Halloween and Thanksgiving each year, but for as long as I can remember, Christmas has been our thing! My mom and I love decorating and we always did it together when I was younger. Real tree, lots of decorations, the works.

Since I moved into my own flat 7 years ago, I have kept up this tradition of Christmas and every year has gotten progressively bigger and bigger with more decorations. Thank goodness for a massive storage unit in the basement, or I would be in serious trouble!

I know a lot of single people my own age who don’t bother with a tree or decorations. My response to that: what’s wrong with you?!?!?

For me it all starts with the tree. Real … of course. Usually 7-8 feet. I tried a 10 foot tree two years ago … that didn’t end well. It was just too big and it fell over. Ooops. Anyway, the tree gets decorated with all unique ornaments; all in red, white or silver. Those are the only colors on my tree. And white pearl lights. So pretty and classic.

The rest of the flat also gets the Christmas spirit, not just the tree. And that’s not even my only three … I have two others! These are fake for the sake of ease. One little one at the entryway and another 4 foot one in my bedroom (because I want to see a tree when I’m reading before bed). Plus lots of other christmasy things all over the apartment! Bowls filled with silver globes, glass trees, wood santas, doves on the windows, and so much more.

This year’s new addition: I bought 25 feet of real pine garland at Costco ($15 … hey!) and framed the barn doors to my bedroom as well as the massive mirror in my entry way. And both have ornaments hanging from the garland. So pretty!




Walker Art Center | Why I Volunteer

Look whose photo and quote is featured on the Walker Art Center website. Me! 


In 1995, when I was 10 years old, my parents took me on a road trip to Chicago, Niagara Falls, Boston, and Maine. In Chicago, we went to the Art Institute of Chicago to see a special exhibition of Monet. It was called "Claude Monet: 1840-1926". That's when I fell in love with art. I stared at those water lilies and poppy fields for hours. I was hooked.

Since then, I've visited major museums all around the world. I know the MIA here in Minneapolis inside and out. And I event got an Art History degree while completing my business degree majors in undergrad ... just because I wanted to. Each semester I took one Art History course ... and it was wonderful to do that with business and learn something so different. I took everything from a course entirely dedicated to the art of Picasso to Art of the Far East. 

Since undergrad, my love of art and art history has mostly been about visiting museums and enjoying the art therein. About a year ago though, I wanted to do more. So, I started volunteering at the Walker Art Center. It was the most versatile volunteer program at the museums, and I need that given I work full time and am finishing up my MBA part time ... and want to have a life somewhere in between. 

Throughout the year I volunteer whenever there are special events and for whatever may come up. December is the busiest month as I volunteer to do usher shifts for the British Arrow Awards (look for a separate post on that later). I take tickets, help guests, and do whatever the Walker needs me to do. Back in December I volunteered for an After Hours party. That's where the above photo was taken. 

I was honored when the Walker asked me to provide a quote so they could feature it with the photo on "why I volunteer". The above pretty much sums it up ... I love art! And I want to be around others who love art as much as I do! And help them enjoy it.

When I finish up school, I would like to get more involved with volunteering and hopefully start getting involved at the MIA as well. 




Christmas 2015

Merry merry Christmas from my family to yours!


My family is as close as they get, and that is something that really comes through at the holidays. It's just the three of us ... always has been. The rest of my family is abroad, and I'm an only child. And on top of that, I've always been really close to my parents. They are my friends as well as my mom and dad. Cliche ... but oh so true.

Christmas is usually a pretty tame and typical affair for us. We travel a lot during the year, but not at Christmas. Instead, my mom cooks up some traditional Romanian goodies, we open presents Christmas Eve, do our Christmas puzzle (mom and I) while the three of us watch Christmas movies (Love Actually, Home Alone, White Christmas). Christmas Day is all about sleeping in, eating more Romanian food and going to a movie. Family, fun, and lots of food!

But this year, instead of our typical Christmas we headed out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest for Christmas with some friends. They are the best of friends ... I won't get into the story, but they are pretty darn amazing people! And they were nice enough to invite us and host us for 4 days over Christmas.
So what did we do this Christmas? We ...
  • Took a quick walk through the Public Market 
  • Ate some yummy savory piroshky at the Piroshky Piroshky Bakery
  • Had some Starbucks ... because ... Seattle
  • Watched some fish get thrown around
  • Ate some amazing seafood
  • Enjoyed delicious turkey, potatoes and all the trimmings ... very traditional!
  • Saw The Big Short (for the second time ...)
  • Read a lot
  • Dominated some Candy Crush
  • Spent lots of quality time with friends and family
  • Got made fun of by said friends and family ... all in good fun ...
  • Drove to Ocean Shores and got to enjoy some fresh ocean air 
  • Walked along the beach
  • Posed with some amazing driftwood
  • Ate more great food
  • Went to bed early (shocking) and slept a fair amount ...
So that was my Christmas. How was yours?

Hope yours was just as enjoyable full of awesome family time, great memories, and relaxation!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Movie Review | Spotlight [IN THEATER]


There is a reason everyone is talking about how good Spotlight is. Because it is.

Spotlight reminds you why we tell stories. Why we right books, make movies, have journalists, all of it. It reminds you what good movies, and good stories, do. They change you. And they change the world. Whether it be my providing a good laugh or by truly making a difference, good stories have purpose.

Spotlight is the story of … a story. I knew a bit about the story being told, but not all the details. Everything about the original story that the Spotlight reporters at the Boston Globe told as well as the retelling of their story via this awesome movie are just great. Everything. The story is gripping, from beginning to end. It seems so hard to separate the work the journalists did with the retelling in the movie – so I am struggling a bit with my words here.

The acting is amazing. Flawless. A great cast that does a very credible job of recreating real people that took on an incredible challenge. I didn’t know the reporters before the film, but after reading some of the articles about production, I have a great deal of respect for the actors who took such pains to really understand and properly portray their real-life characters. Down to the accents and other details. Amazing. All of the actors did a great job, but I think one that stood out to me was Mark Ruffalo. He has come such a long way in recent years and has just had some amazing character-drive roles (i.e. Foxcatcher). Then there is Stanley Tucci. He is such an amazing and versatile actor, but sometimes I immediately take him to “comedic genius in cooky roles” (i.e. Devil Wears Prada, Hunger Games, Easy A). Films like this remind me of his amazing ability to play pretty much any character, including drama. Keaton and McAdams are great of course. And Live Schreiber’s character is very interesting. Watching him on screen always left me wanting more. He was so soft-spoken and restrained, but everything he said was perfectly on-point.

The story itself is amazing. Here is a small group of reporters who undertook an amazing task and overcame many challenges to tell a story that needed to be told. Who gave a voice to those who had been silenced. Who shined a light on an entire institution that many had put blind faith in. The movie does an excellent job of giving its viewers Journalism 101 and explaining how investigative pieces like this come to life and all the red tape and politics that are involved. And it is the ultimate tale of tenacity and dedication, sometimes with great personal sacrifice.

Every detail is accounted for with amazing accuracy – from the facts of the story to accents of the actors to the 2001 sets and props – it’s all perfect. As the film went on, I noticed churches everywhere. A really well executed visual cue to show that the Catholic church is everywhere in Boston, literally hovering over the community at every corner. It was shocking to hear that there are 1,500 Priests in Boston.  

Overall, great journalism, great movie making. A compelling story that makes you sit up and do something.

And a definite front runner for upcoming awards season (yay!).

Love Actually ... is the best movie


It seems like everywhere you turn this time of year people are either a) watching Love Actually, or b) commenting on Love Actually.

I love when my newsfeed as an article titled “why Love Actually is actually the WORST holiday movie ever” directly followed by one called “top 10 reasons Love Actually really is the best movie ever”. Thank you internet.

I am in the LOVE IT camp. I cannot remember when I first saw it or what made me fall in love with it, but I did. And now, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without it. I probably watch that movie at least a dozen times during the holiday season. It is ALWAYS what I put in while decorating my flat. And then I just put it in at other points for background while doing things. This year’s count to date: 2.

So, what do I love about Love Actually?
  • Ummm … everything

That was easy.

But seriously, I just like all the stories so much. And it is such a perfect hodgepodge of great actors! And I like how not all the storylines end up perfectly perfect (sorry Laura Linney and Emma Thompson), because that’s real life. And every scene feels like a perfect “one liner” that is just perfect and memorable on its own, but even better when all put together.

In addition to Love Actually, there are three other DVDs that go on repeat during December: Home Alone, The Holiday, White Christmas. I am not a fan of Elf, or Christmas Vacation, or It’s a Wonderful Life, or a Christmas Story. These 4 DVDs are my go to. I also usually find myself rewatching the Harry Potter movies at this time of year since they feel Christmasy (they all have great Christmas scenes!).

Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review | A Little Chaos [DVD]
















I watched this film on the flight home from Istanbul. I had never heard of it before, but it seemed like something I’d enjoy. My mom watched it on the flight to Europe and suggested it actually.

Overall, a nice little film. It won’t win any Oscars and it won’t make you roll in the aisle laughing. But it is a lovely story, shot beautifully and great for a Friday night DVD rental.

A Little Chaos tells the story of the construction of one of the smaller gardens at the Palace of Versailles. Kate Winslet plays Madame de Barra, a woman (shocking!) who is chosen to design and construct the garden. The movie looks at class barriers and gender issues as well as telling a good ol’ love story between Barra and the court’s landscape architect – Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts ). And did I mention that Alan Rickman wrote, directed AND starred in the film as his royal highness, King Louis XIV. Yup. Not that first time that he and Winslet are together in a period piece. Sense & Sensibility … sigh (time for a re-watch I think).

If you are looking for a nice little period costume drama, this fits the bill.
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