Last Month’s Favorites: March

March, one of my favorite months of the year, partially because of my birthday, but mostly because is the first month of Spring, my favorite season. The sunny mornings when the sky is so blue that it hurts to look at it, make me want to be active and do stuff all the time. The terraces are once again open and ready for customers. Another good reason to love spring is that is time to say goodbye to the winter clothes and say hello to the light and stylish ones. So here is the list of favorites from March! 😉

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Even if I had so many items on the list to shop for in the US, due to the severe cold, I wasn’t in a shape where I could wander around the shops, yet there are some things that caught my attention. First ones would be the drugstore make-up that I brought: Maybelline concealer and foundation, I’ve been a fan of the light texture and the way it’s distributed on the face, another plus one goes for the sponge, you don’t have to carry an extra one when traveling since it’s built in. Also from Target, I brought one of the mascaras that I have been using for years now: the L’ORÉAL PARIS duo mascara, if in this case, the opinions differ from one person to another, for me its the perfect fit.

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Not really a big fan of the Michael Kors anything, but I have to say that while I was in the store found in the Fashion Outlet Mall, I found a pink one that stole my heart and, since I was at a bargain price of only 81$, I swiped the card and took it home with me. Possibly the only item that I needed was a wallet, I have looked for a perfect, black one in most of the stores and I ended up buying one also from Michael Kors for 50$. After these 2 purchases from him, I might not be allowed to say that I don’t really like the designer.

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Since denim is going to be everywhere this season, I thought is time to buy a denim jacket once more. I used to love them’ when I was in high-school and putting it on takes me back to late 2000. Therefore I got one that fits me perfectly from TJMax and I am dying for the weather to be on my side so that I can wear it.

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Don’t know if you already noticed or not, but I am a bit of a “bagaholic” and therefore I couldn’t walk away from a pretty Furla when I saw it on sale on a local website. Therefore the second pink bag arrived in my closet a few days after I got home from the US. Now I am really looking forward to the summer for me to wear them with dresses.

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No month without books, so I have to brag about the new additions to my library: Michelle Obama My Story and the first 2 books from After series were written by Anna Todd. Since my books to read queue got a little too big, I will have to pause the addition of any new books for at least a few months.

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With so many things happening I felt like March passed in a second, while in Romania the weather did show signs of Spring, in Chicago, Malmo and Copenhagen it didn’t, but even so, I am very grateful for what my birth-month brought and I can only wait for sun to shine and for me to enjoy this month’s favorites. What did you love about March?

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Traveling: 3rd Time in Chicago

In the last 2 years I’ve been in Chicago 2 times already and this March I was once again on a client visit for 2 weeks. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm went away when I got a severe cold, that made me lose my voice completely for the first 3 days and cough my sole out for the next week and a half. By the end of my trip, I was once again feeling like a human, but I didn’t want this to shadow my time there, so here are the main things I did while I was, again, in the Windy City.

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If there was one 100% experience that I wanted to have while here, it was going to a game. While in high-school I was in love with basketball and one of my favorite shows ever was One Tree Hill, where, obviously, the main subject was the basketball game. Therefore in the first week, even if I had no voice and I was feeling like crap, I went to a Chicago Bulls game. Initially, I thought I was there to see a game of basketball, but when the show began, I realized that it’s a lot more than that. Every minute you get to see something new, also at the beginning when a girl came onto the stage and sang the national anthem, we were left speechless by the fact that everyone raised up and start singing with her.

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Since Chicago is famous for it’s Chicago Blues and the live music bars, I couldn’t leave the city the 3rd time without going to one, even more since Blue Chicago was across the street from the hotel I was staying in. I have to admit that I hate myself for not going to this type of show last times I was in the city, it was amazing. The voice of the singer was great and also hearing the band play live. Highly recommend the bar if you find yourself in Chicago, they have shows every night and the bands rotate.

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One of the best things to do as a European in the US is to go shopping since the prices on the other side of the Atlantic are so much lower than on the old continent. Last time I was here, I only had one week, so I didn’t get the chance to go to the Fashion Outlets from outside the city. This time I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Even if I didn’t make as many purchases as I wanted, I have to say that if you are passionate about fashion you should visit it.

The last experience, was more of an accident since we were just lucky to be in the city at this time of the year. I’ve heard about the river being painted for St Patrick’s but never did I thought that it would be such a huge celebration. Unfortunately, I was leaving on Saturday, so I didn’t get the chance to go to the parties, but at least I got the chance to see the river getting painted and it’s indeed an extraordinary experience. The radioactive green makes the city a huge attraction for a lot of people. the downside of this was having to miss three subways until there was enough room to get in.

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If I were to suggest a time NOT to visit Chicago, that would be the winter time, yet I saw that during St Patrick’s day, all the US is visiting. As a personal preference, I think summertime is a lot better, but even during the cold time, there is a lot of things to do and see here. If there will be a 4th time for me in Chicago, I can’t tell, but if there will be I will definitely go to Blue Chicago again.

As a European In US

Remember Sting’s song Englishmen in New York? Well, I can tell you this much, it’s a huge cultural difference between the two continents, and yes, you can really feel like an alien sometimes, luckily with the globalization, the gaps are starting to diminish, but until then, here is my list of noticeable differences when you are traveling to the US from Europe.

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  • Hi! How are you? 

In the US this is just another way of saying hi, none really wants to know how you are, it’s just a polite way of starting a conversation. In Europe, asking someone how he/she is, is usually the start for the broader conversation about what the person is doing.

  • Mix of cultures

One of my favorite aspects about the US is the cultural mix, the diversification and the unique beauty that each of the individuals brings. Working for a company that promotes diversification and equal rights gave me also the opportunity to work with different people coming from different grounds. Furthermore, big cities as New York and Chicago will impress any European for sure.

  • Smiles and compliments with no hidden reasons

In Europe, people are more composed and don’t really interact with strangers, also when they do, they keep their distance. In America it’s the opposite, people smile back at you and offer you compliments, without having an agenda. I was in TJ Maxx trying on a pair of shoes and this lady told me that she loves the color and those look really great on me. She was also a costumer, so she didn’t gain anything from trying to sell the shoes, she was just very nice and unfortunately, you don’t get to see this very often in Europe.

  • Everyone is willing to help you

This point goes very well with the one above. Have to say that whenever you need help and ask for it, everyone is willing to lend you a hand. They would all stop what they are doing and try to figure a way of helping you. Also, being in this mindset, makes you change your behavior.

  • Fast and heavily processed food served in HUGE portions

The food was the hardest area for me to adjust. It is true that I didn’t eat a lot in the high-end restaurants, but more of the budget ones, yet the heavily processed meat, the sugar and the amount of grease that it’s used, made my body react in a not so pleasant way. Usually, when I am abroad I make an exception and don’t really watch what I am eating, yet after 2 weeks in the US, I was anxious to get home and have a real meal, made with real meat and with raw vegetables. Seeing it from outside, the fact that fast food business is booming and that people eat that much unhealthy food is a bit scary.

  • Tips are a must and prices don’t include the taxes

Tipping in Europe is one of the nice to have in the northern countries, more expected in the southern ones, but not mandatory. In US tipping is a must, also the fact that you have to tip up to 25% of the check is also a big shock to anyone traveling there. Maybe it’s because we usually only tip 10-15%, or because we feel like we are obliged to do it, that makes this practice very hated by most Europeans. If tipping is mandatory, it should be added to the check, also while I was with Work and Travel and waitressing, the wage that I was getting was half of the minimum because I would get tips, and this made me feel like I wasn’t actually paid by the restaurant but by the customers.

Another odd thing is the taxes not being included in the price, I would never actually know how much I would get to pay at the counter because of it. I think the US is the only place in the world that I’ve seen this.

  • Politically correct

In Europe, we don’t really care about talking politically correct everywhere we go. When we are out with friends we usually make jokes and none gets offended since those are only for fun and are not meant to upset anyone. In the US people are more composed and try to stick to the rules all the time because they are afraid someone might get offended. Although I do understand that limits have to be kept, I feel like the world has become this place where anything you say can and definitely will be used against you.

  • Everyone says they are sorry for about anything

The most commonly used word in the US has to be ‘sorry’. Everywhere you go if you encounter a person that tried to go around you, that person will say sorry. If you are passing someone in the store, they will say sorry. I somehow feel like the word is being so abused that it lost its main purpose, that of saying sorry when you really feel sorry for something. Let’s be honest you are not sorry for wanting to get to the other side of the road. If you step on someone’s foot, yes you will say sorry, but not for passing near another person.

  • Water with ice even in the winter

I visited Chicago 2 times during the fall and winter seasons. Anyone who’s ever been to Chicago knows that it is extremely cold and windy, so you can all imagine my surprise when I saw water with ice cubes everywhere I went. Also, when I asked the waiter to switch my water with ice cubes with just water they were a bit surprised.

  • Flip-flops and sandals in the winter, because why not?

The temperature in Chicago in March is a very low one, the wind making it feel like a lot less, yet on Saturday everyone was out parting and some of the people were wearing sandals to match their outfit. This girl from the street was wearing a very short dress and some pumps, while I was covered in fabric and still feeling as if I will freeze to death. Also in the airport, as we went out, we saw a lot of people wearing flip-flops, perhaps at their departure, it was nice and warm, but at the destination, it was so cold that I wasn’t feeling my fingers although I was wearing gloves.

  • Healthcare is expensive

Coming from a country where healthcare is automatically paid from one’s salary, ER services are always free and when someone doesn’t have a job still receives medical care, it was a big shock to see how the American system works and it’s pricing. Clearly, we cannot compare the quality of the services that are given across the ocean and in Romania, but still, it surprised me that many people cannot afford a decent healthcare subscription. While I was traveling to Chicago, in the plane I sat next to a guy that told me he when into the ER room on his knees just so that he wouldn’t pay 2000$ for the ambulance to come and pick him. He said that even if he has health insurance, that wouldn’t cover all the expenses so he just took an Uber. Another thing that surprised me, where the number of commercials that I saw, especially in the subway, for medical research made on humans. When I asked my colleagues about this, that said that many people are signing up for those programs because they are offered apart from money, healthcare insurances.

  • It’s easier to procure heroin than antibiotics

I was “lucky” enough to catch a cold while I was in the US, it got so severe that I started to cough pus and knew that I was in need of some heavy medication. Since I know that during the winter I get this pretty often and I know the medication I need, I asked people where can I get some antibiotics. It was then that my colleges told me that in the US it’s way easier to buy heroin than antibiotics and that those are almost never prescribed unless absolutely needed. In Romania, in case of severe cases, as I was, you can get the antibiotics for 72h medication even from the Pharmacy if the pharmacists consider that you really needed. Have to say that it took me almost 2 weeks to heal with the regular, very light medicine.

  • Drugs are sold in the supermarket

All supermarkets in the US sell drugs, even if those are the ones that don’t need a prescription, have to say that this looks very odd from someone coming from Europe, where drugs are only sold in pharmacy’s and the person selling them has to have a college degree in pharmaceutics in order to offer you information or suggestions regarding what medication you should take. Also, what is up with the 300 pills ibuprofen jar?

  • Homeless people are a real issue

In 2011 when I first visited the US, I didn’t really notice the number of homeless people that were wandering the streets of New York, perhaps it was because I was to focus on the city or because of the fact that their number was a lot lower, but in the last 2 years, at least in Chicago I got to see a lot of them. What surprised me even more, was the fact that most of them were young, perhaps in their 30′, yet they were standing in the severe cold. Nowadays we get to see a lot of people begging on the streets of Europe, but their number is not as high, furthermore, most of them have a home, yet they are begging to try to get some easy money, so they are not really homeless. Most countries in Europe offer them housing during the winter, and only a few of the beggers are young. For me, this was one of the most difficult things to see and pass by.

  • The entertainment is a must on about anything

When it comes to entertainment I have to say that America does it best, from a simple meal at the restaurant where the waiter will do anything to make you feel good, to the games that have a show designed to entertain the masses. It was the first time I got to see a basketball game in the US and I have to give it to them, the show from the breaks was a great one. Every minute was used to make the audience want more and come back. After seeing this, I definitely want to see more.

  • Fashion is affordable for everyone

In one of the weekends, I got the chance to go to one of the outlet malls from outside Chicago. Many big brands have outlet stores over there, and the prices are amazing. Have to say that I was very jealous of American people that they can buy designer items at such great prices making fashion and quality pieces affordable to everyone. Next time I visit Chicago I want to be more prepared since honestly I was very surprised by the brands and the discounts you can get.

Each place you visit will make an impact over how you see the world, as a foreigner in the US, I have to admit that it struck me at first. The different mindset and cultural diversity are one of the most amazing things you get to experience. Also, it doesn’t matter how many times you visit the same place, there is always something more to do and to explore. I don’t know yet if I will return to Chicago, but I am hoping that I will since there are still a lot of things on my list. Even if it will not be this same city, I will definitely return to the US, since I believe there are still a lot of places and experiences that I want to have.

List of My Favorite Books

All us book worms have a list of favorite books that went straight to our hearts. From classics to romance, I think a good book is one that speaks to your soul, no matter the ranking it has. So here is my list!

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1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

My No1 for sure! Loved Margaret’s book and Scarlet is one of the most iconic female character in history, beautiful, sometimes cruel, but very determined. Not to mention it was the inspiration for the movie with the same name and Vivien Leigh was just a perfect match.

2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Even if it is somehow a tragic story, I cannot help but loving this book. For me it is a must read classic that conquered my heart.

3. Emma by Jane Austen

I am a big fan of Jane Austen’s books, it was really hard to pick a favorite so I went with the first book I read from her and it was love at first read. After I finished Emma I brought all of her books and started to read them one by one.

4. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Also my favorite movie, it was a book I read when I was 11. It all started when my sister took me to the cinema to see the first part of the movie, Fellowship of the Ring, after that I just went crazy about it, getting the books and reading them in a few days.

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I have to say that in this case, I first saw the movie because it started Vivien Leigh but soon after the book made me turn my attention towards Leo Tolstoy and I was not disappointed.

6. Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

A book that I found in parents house, it’s less famous than the rest of the classics and is also a sad story. Yet it stuck to me and made me want to put in my list of favorites.

7. Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane

A very simple and easy to read chick lit book that made me laugh with tears as I read it. Maybe it’s because I found myself in the main character or just because I read it when I was in high school and in love, cannot tell you exactly, but if you are looking for a simple, easy to read the book, I 100% recommend it.

8. The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

No list of favorite books without Coelho. At first, I didn’t quite get him and his style but as I grew older, I understood what he is writing about. As for the favorite book from him, I choose The Winner Stands Alone because it felt the most real.

9. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I don’t think there is a way to explain this, apart from telling the fact that I grew up in the 90′, therefore Harry Potter was part of my childhood. Also, those were the first books I got to read in English.

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I have to admit that all my friends were crazy about the first movie and they tried to convince me to go see it, but I thought it’s a bit too harsh for me after I saw the trailers. I stumbled upon the books at the book fair and I purchased them with my last money. It was one of the best decisions ever since I immediately fell in love with Katniss Everdeen. After I finished the books I also saw the movies.

11. The Chamber by John Grisham

Before reading this book I was in favor of the death penalty since I am a believer that the punishment should fit the crime. I have to say that the book gave me shivers down my spine and made me change my mind completely. For those who don’t know, Grishman is also an ex-attorney so the details from his book are based on real facts and that adds to the magic.

12. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To see the evil of the world through the innocent eyes of a child, it is one of the classic American novels that should be on everyone’s to read list.

13. Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand‎

A story about starting over, about what it feels to lose the ones you love and about having to deal with the pain. I have to say that I added this book to the list because I devoured it in a few hours and this isn’t happening that often, I was unable to leave it until I turned the last page.

14. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking

The Danish people are the happiest from the world, even if they have a few hours of light during the winter, it’s cold most of the time and yet they are having the highest living standards. Maybe it’s not the best-written book, but it contains valuable lessons about how we can be happy and present.

15. Murder in the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Again, it was hard to pick only one book from Agatha, but I went for the book that has the action happening along the route of the famous Orient Express, that initially passed through Bucharest, the capital of my home country, Romania. This was the second reason, the first was the fact that I never imagined who the killer was.

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Hope you feel inspired by my list and maybe you add a couple of these books to yours.

Last Month’s Favorites: February

Finally, the last month of winter has passed. I think we are all ready for the bad weather to go away and for spring to come and take its place. The flower markets are already blooming with the spring flowers and the day is a few hours longer. But before we talk more about March, let’s remember what was nice about February.

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Early birthday gifts are the best since you will never expect them before your birthday month, therefore you can imagine the surprise when I saw the huge package on my coffee table. My boyfriend had a happy yet terrified look on his face, not knowing whether I will love it or hate it. After unwrapping I saw probably the best gift I ever got, a Cannon DSRL that I immediately start using. There is no term of comparison between the pictures that are taken with it and the ones I was taking with my phone. I cannot wait to take it with me when traveling to capture the beauty of our world using this amazing machinery.

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Since you guys already know me for a book worm, I wasn’t able to help myself and not buy Caroline Kepnes book, ‘You’. Also, after reading this article from Bustle, I got carried away and added to the cart also: ‘One Of Us Is Lying’ by Karen McManus, ‘P.S. I Still Love You’ by Jenny Han and ‘The Hating Game’ by Sally Thorne. The others from the article are in the wishlist for the months to come.

In the shopping department, I only added a couple of items that I needed for my Chicago business trip ( I already wrote about my outfits here). Furthermore, since February is a month of discounts I got them at a bargain price. The list included: two office shirts, a pair of elegant wool pants and a long dress shirt.

Have to say that I cannot wait for the bad weather to go away and for the sun to take it’s rightful place, spring being my favorite season. Looking forward in capturing this springs beautiful colors with my new DSRL camera. Hope you will enjoy the pictures.

 

Types of Jeans You Need to Have

Whether you are a jeans addicted person, or you just have that few pairs of comfy, street style for the crazy days, we all have at least a few types of jeans in our closet. Here is my list of mandatory jeans you have to own.

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1. Skinny jeans

Also my favorite kind, the skinny jeans are comfy and go well with about anything, from high heels to sports shoes. The must-have pair needs to fit you perfectly and have the correct length. I prefer the blue color since I think these can be used during summer and winter.

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2. Black/white classic

These two pairs go into the capsule wardrobe that you need to have. The classic black jeans will go with almost everything, honestly when I ran out of ideas for what to wear I grab the black jeans and a loose shirt and there I go. The white ones are my favorite during the spring days, I am in love with the light colors that go so well with them.

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3. Mom jeans

This pair might not be for all of us, but give it a chance before you say no to it. At first, I didn’t want to hear about them, weren’t really my style, but then I tried them on and fell for them almost instantly. Love the high waist and how these look in a street style. I like to add a sporty cross over bag and my trusted air-max.

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4. Ripped jeans

My favorite type of jeans since high school, these are the one type that defines my personality. I love to wear them, I even do it with high heels or stilettos to give them a more refined look. I know for some this trashy look might not sound good, but trust me when I tell you that those will look great in any combination you want to create.

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5. Boyfriend jeans

Even the most stylish celebrities have been seen wearing them and another great news, these types go with all figures, it doesn’t matter if you are tall and skinny, have a minion figure or the opposite of this, the boyfriend jeans will look great on you. I usually wear them on vacations or when I am out in the weekends, I feel like they are comfy and have that urban style that I fancy. Might not be your if you are into the vintage burlesque, but once you’ve tried them I think you would rather wear them when going on a plane than an unconformable dress.

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As a kid I hated jeans, I don’t know why, but I just hated the fabric, as an adult, I cannot have enough of them. I guess it’s true what they say about mood switches since now I am not able to get out of jeans, they are my favorite item and I am not sorry about it.

Smart Travelling

Last year I had my mind set on traveling as much as possible on a relatively small budget. This year I changed my mindset. Here is why!

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One of the main challenges as an addicted traveler is the budget, especially when you are not paid to do this. Balancing the need to see the world and the finances might lead to doing some concessions. If last year I would just look at the budget and try to check as many of my bucket list destinations, this year I want to focus more on the quality rather then on the quantity, especially after the Malta fiasco.

If you follow my blog, you probably know that I was unfortunate enough to be in Malta in the rainy days of October and I wasn’t able to see the famous Blue Lagoon, not to mention the fact that I had my feet soaked for 2 full days. One thing I learned after this experience is that you need to look for the correct seasons and try to avoid the low season when possible. In the case of Malta, it was only pouring rain, but if you think of other destinations, you need to make sure you are safe and that you don’t go in the rainy season or when the temperatures are a way to high.

For 2019 my plan is to find the best balance between the destinations I want to conquer and the budget that I want to follow, until now I only focused on getting a good price for the plane tickets, from now on I want to choose the best season to visit so that I can check all the items that I want to see. If that would mean I have to pay more, then be it, I would much rather add fewer destinations then not be able to fully enjoy them.

The first example would be the Milano ticket, I wanted to visit the Cinque Terre in May, so I spent more on the tickets, just to go in the period when the weather would be not very hot, but also not too cold, since we are planning to go to Como lake as well. Yes, I would’ve had to spend only 50 euros to buy them in March or early April, but I wouldn’t have been able to fully enjoy the destination.

That was only one example when spending a little bit more can actually make me save a lot so that I don’t have to retake the entire trip. Another example would be that of Cuba, I really wanted to go this year, but I already booked my flights for Milano when I found an offer. I researched a bit and I saw that there was also another party made for July and I almost booked it, but fortunately, I searched if July is a safe season and I found out that its monsoon period. Clearly, I will not risk going now that I know this, safety should always come first.

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Just checking a place of your travel bucket list isn’t enough if you weren’t able to funny enjoy it. I know what happened in Malta was a misfortune, since one day prior and one day after people were sunbathing and ships were going for Blue Lagoon, but I am not willing to risk this again. Smart traveling is based on making the correct decisions even when this means you have to spend more.