Sunday, September 27, 2009

Design on a Dime

It's been almost 3 months and Florin and I are still having a lot of fun decorating our home. We have really enjoyed working together to bring it all together. The latest is that Florin has done an excellent job with the directing and placement of all the pictures and photos throughout the home assisted by my hammering help. I love it that he's "just the right amount of European metrosexual"--fashion savvy with masculine swagger.

In any case, we've recently had some fun trying to find "functional art." These are pieces that are both interesting or intriguing AND functional. Examples may include furniture like unique coffee tables, bookcases/shelves, or in our recent case, a lamp.

See, Florin needs a lamp above the dresser to help him identify the color of his work socks in the early morning hours. We currently have my old 1960's metal mauve fluorescent lamp that is listing heavily to one side perched above his sock drawer. Let's face it, it works, but BOY IS IT UGLY. Normally, it wouldn't matter to us, but since that dresser is directly opposite of the bedroom door, it's really the first thing you see. We decided to keep an eye out for something ... nicer to look at.

About a month ago, I found the perfect lamp in the Pottery Barn catalog, but at $110 it wasn't the right price. Another one we liked was the Verilux - Legacy Natural Spectrum Desk and Table Lamp in Aged Bronze, but it ran closer to $130. (Do realize that we understand lamps are expensive, but it's really hard to justify spending $100+ just to look at socks ...) We kept both of those lamps in the back of our minds and hoped they would either reduce in price or we could find something comparable for less.

Last night as I was looking at sconces (for the movie room), I stumbled across the Sonneman Essex Arc Boom Table Lamp and it was not only beautiful, but incredibly functional. Only problem was that it was ... $330 new, and still $220 on sale. Ouch.

Not to be deterred, I was on the hunt to find it cheaper. No stone was left unturned as I combed eBay, Amazon, Froogle, but alas the $300 price tag was consistent. Only after I stumbled upon a blog post that talked about the wonderful folks (and prices) at CSN Lighting did I score an absolute deal. Not only did they have the Sonneman Essex Arc Boom Table Lamp, but they had it for only $52.34! Needless to say, Florin authorized that purchase right away!

It should be arriving shortly and I think it will not only look terrific, but provide a great purpose in that corner of our bedroom.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Family Visiting Family!

It's strange how 5 days can be both slow and fast at the same time. It's Monday and I'm already on my way back to Roanoke, VA. I have just spent the last 5 days in Peoria, IL with the love of my life and fiance, Florin, and his intriguing European parents.

It's exciting because this is the trip that Florin's family finally had the chance to come over to The States to visit us in our new home! I'm so happy and excited, because they can finally see what he and I are so thrilled about: starting our new and exciting life together! It's our own little International House--not of pancakes, though; we prefer waffles & crepes! Ha, ha! ;)

Although Geta and Mircea had already been in the house for a week before I arrived, it wasn't a problem. I could see that they had settled in and had a routine going and I didn't want to interrupt that. They had already done so much (for us) around the house: pressure-washing the deck, purchasing tools and stain, brought us gifts, etc. I was hoping to have more chances to fix them meals or introduce them to particular American ways (as they had done for me in Romania), but the opportunities were not many.

As I had mentioned, I was only able to get away from work for a short while and it was unfortunately already going to be a difficult trip for me. Many unpleasant things had happened just prior to the visit. First, all three of my work days prior to Peoria were long and disastrous; the system I do training on appeared to experience a system-wide failure and left me looking silly and the system inept. (Not my best days in the job.) Then, I learned that the husband of a friend of ours had died without any suitable explanation as to how or why. It made me feel really sad and scared to imagine my own life without Florin ... I shudder to think of how painful and difficult it would be to have to live each day without the man I love and respect above anyone else. I think it was tough on Florin, too, once I told him of our deceased friend. It made us really appreciate how important it is to have one another and to really cherish the relationship and respect that we have for each other.

Despite the emotionally charged start, things started off and remained well. We had a fantastic trip to Chicago! We let Geta and Mircea call the shots on activities. Geta likes Jazz and Mircea is like me (we like food). For Friday night, Florin was able to direct us all to Andy's Jazz Club. The food was stellar, the waitress was Romanian, and the Jazz was loud, but quite enjoyable. On Saturday, we went to a bona fide American diner, Ohio House, for breakfast and then we were able to tour around Chicago on the Double-Decker bus in some of the most beautiful weather I've seen in a long time. We saw all the big buildings, was introduced to some of the rich history, and had the chance to mentally note places we wanted to zone in on. We then walked the city, visiting sites along the way and stopped into Potbelly Sandwiches for a quick eat. (Yum!) We visited Millennium Park and joked about taking Segway tours! It was a lot of fun and the sun seemed to set very quickly that day. By night we enjoyed Maggiano's, a terrific representation of Italian-American food.

Sunday was well spent in the Museum of Science and Industry. Florin found a good parking spot (although I did give him a hard time about it). :D We entered and bought tickets to the museum, the U-505 sub tour and for the IMAX Wild Oceans viewing. It is so difficult to believe that we spent 5 hours there! I think we all could've spent days in there and still not seen or experienced everything. (I am definitely going back at some point, hopefully soon! I know that my own family is very interested in going when they visit in November.) After it closed and we had to leave, we piled into the car and drove back to Peoria. While the family spoke and discussed things in Romanian, I arranged for transportation back to Blacksburg from Roanoke for my Monday flight. (I ended up taking the Smartway bus which worked out extremely well for only $3!) Then, we were home. As I took a short jog, Florin picked up a Chicago-style pizza. We sat down and introduced (and explained) American NFL Football to his parents. I think they actually enjoyed watching it and getting a sense of an American national pastime.

Night came and went. I had to depart very early in the morning. I didn't really get a chance to say goodbye or thank you to his parents since the night before seems premature to do so. Besides, I never really think of it as goodbye. It's more like a "see you later," or "soon," or "until next time!" There should always be a next time when you're talking about family ...

Despite the short trip and some of the obstacles, I think we did a pretty good job weaving work schedules, workout schedules, food preferences, habits, and household duties and chores with the needs and attentions for both the parents and for ourselves. You can't please all of the people all of the time, but it's not about that, anyway; these trips are about coexisting as a family and making new family memories.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Trip to Minnesota

We flew into Fargo, ND and got a rental car (2009 Mazda 6) to go to Bagley, MN. The drive was very picturesque on back roads through the Detroit Lakes area and it really reminded me of Sweden. It explains why all those Scandinavians settled there.

We visited the Tamarack wildlife refuge and saw a few birds and a few chipmunks. I guess it really wasn't the season to be spotting wildlife, but regardless, it was a nice day spent together. We listened to some really good NPR programming and had very interesting discussions about it. It's just great to be together again.

In the evening we finally arrived in Bagley. First impression from inside the car: It's small. First impression from outside the car: It smells like cows. That being said, it was a cute little town with the bare necessities. There was Hanks Hardware, the SuperValu, Jennifer's Hardware, Daroo's Pizza, Subs & Mexican (the local international food place), DairyLand (the local ice cream shop) and last but not least, the Dutch Mill Motel & Video (which also offers in sun tans, not furs). There were several other establishments, but I can probably count them on my fingers.

The motel was very clean, but very old and probably doesn't feature in the Travel Channel's best hotels list. But we learned they are the cheapest motel in northern Minnesota and that was good enough for us. We weren't planning on spending much time in the room anyways.

The following day, we went to Itasca State Park, which is where the mighty Mississippi begins its journey to the Gulf of Mexico. It begins in Itasca Lake and meanders north and east before actually turning south. Very interesting and quite a nice park to visit. Just make sure to bring bug spray aka. "Minnesota cologne," because the mosquitoes are relentless.

Later in the evening we went to Sam and Nathaniel's wedding which featured the funniest preacher I've ever seen, a Model A Ford, some of the best finger food I've ever had and more family and friends than I could count. It was a lot of fun and the reception, although segregated, was a total hit once the dancing began. I also was surprised by the amount of singing that took place. I've never been to a wedding where the guests get up and sing songs to the bride and groom.

Wedding lasted until about midnight which worked well for us because we had to get up early and drive back to Fargo. Once in Fargo we grabbed some breakfast at the Atomic Cafe and attempted to make our way to the airport. This was very difficult because all the roads were closed off for the air show. Lucky for us, we were there early and were able to watch the show for an hour or two prior to having to get on our plane.

We flew together to Chicago and then had to go our separate ways. Yet another weekend that was way too short but well worth the trip. We want to go back to Minnesota to go bicycling with Sam and take in some more of the natural beauty up there.

Pictures will follow as soon as Amber has some time to post them. (It's Blitz week now and it may take a while).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Florin 4 - Chipmunks 0

Recently I have noticed numerous holes in the ground on all sides of the house. Nothing real major, just significant enough to attract my attention. I sat still on the deck one day for an extended period of time and noticed chipmunks moving around in the yard. Friday I finally got around to buying a trap. I was going to use the less-than-humane, drowning in a bucket technique but I opted for catch-and-release. I would resort to the bucket trick if the store-bought trap wouldn't work or if it turned out that I had a massive infestation on my hands.

Friday night I set the trap with some bird seed I bought at ACE Hardware and a few crab apples from the yard. I left the trap overnight and nothing happened. Then I got the idea of trying some cheese (which was old and had started to turn green). I figured it would smell nice and strong and attract some attention. Within a few hours, I caught my first chipmunk. I drove out into the corn fields and released the little bugger. As you can see in the picture, they're very cute and cuddly. Unfortunately, they are also very destructive and very good at procreating. Best to get rid of them before they become a problem.

I repeated the procedure but this time with peanut butter. This seemed to work even better. By mid day I had caught 3 chipmunks in three areas around the house where the holes had appeared. I was feeling pretty good about myself!

After catching each chipmunk, I went and covered up all the holes around where I captured each respective chipmunk. This way, if the burrow is still inhabited, I'll know because the access holes get reopened. That's how I'll know if I got them all or not.

After having released my third chipmunk, I returned home and heard a noise from one of the down spouts from the gutters near where I'd seen activity before. I went straight there and set the trap at the end of the downspout without any bait. Then I proceeded to shake and rattle the downspout until a confused chipmunk with his mouth full of bird seed came running out and straight into the trap. Thus I captured 2 chipmunks within 10 minutes of each other. After releasing this one too, I haven't had any more activity. However I'll keep setting the trap for another day or so just to be safe.

All in all I'd say I'm glad I spent the $25 for a trap that I think has already paid for itself after one day of hunting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Engagement ring

Per multiple requests, I'm posting a few pictures of the actual ring I got Amber. Hope you enjoy it as much as we (and especially Amber) do.

To the left you can see the Tacori ring with the two Sapphires on either side of the diamond. I thought having all diamonds would be really boring and unimaginative, so I opted for two classy blue stones to help make the center stone pop.

Here's a shot that better shows the two bands that are intertwined all the way around. I'm sure that's supposed to symbolize something, but I can't think of what it might be...

And here's the ring on my lovely lady's hand. I picked Tacori because it is a designer that emigrated to the US from Romania. He now has set up shop in California. I though it was a nice symbolic tie between my heritage and Amber's.

Another shot of the ring on Amber's hand. I've actually had this ring picked out for almost 9 months now. Due to the uncertain job situation, the house purchase and everything else that's been going on, I've had to hold off until now. I'm glad I did because the timing feels perfect.

And now for the mandatory glamor shot. Enjoy!


"Dr. Florin M. Marcu and Amber D. Evans are officially engaged!"

I'm so happy and excited. Words cannot explain the intense elation and ecstasy I feel regarding this latest development. While all other things in life have already been fantastically amazing (degrees, jobs, house, etc.) this surpasses them all. I always knew Florin and I would always be together and although marriage never did decide that kind of commitment for either of us, it's still a girlish delight to have been asked to be a lifelong soul mate of the one man I love. Plus, "the ring is real, real purty." :D

My love and heart always belongs to my "Flori" and always will. Thank you, baby, for making my dreams (in every way) come true. Life is so much better since you've entered my life and I know it will only just get better!

Love, Amber

Monday, August 3, 2009

Degrees Awarded!

Well, we've both cleared degrees this academic year!

I (finally) received my Master of Science in Instructional Design and Technology from Chico State:

and Florin was awarded his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech:

Yay! Success!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We've Arrived @ our New Home!

We're so excited! Today is the big day! We have the key in hand and we're on our way driving the Grand Am of Doom to our new home and life together.

Upon driving up, one can see the green steel mailbox and the numbers, 1318; it's miraculous to realize that it is OUR mailbox that we are staring at.

As you can see, I absolutely LOVE our new home. Even Florin can barely contain his excitement as he turns the key in the lock and the door to our new life together opens.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Closed on the house

Today Amber and I closed on the house. It was almost as anti-climactic as getting my Ph.D. There was no champagne, no fireworks, no cheering or hooting. We just got a lot poorer and we now have an empty house. Tomorrow the movers come and bring all our furniture. After that Amber and I will spend the rest of the week setting up our house.

That being said, we could not imagine being happier together. Things have gone very well for us and we are thrilled to start this new chapter together.

Everyone's cordially invited to visit at any time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Even Calen doesn't want to see Daddy go!

Today is the day that Florin moves (up and out) of Blacksburg to the greater Peoria, IL area!

He's packed and ready to go, complete with a new briefcase and everything (Thanks, Nana!):

And even Calen didn't want to be left behind; I think he figured that if he curled up and was small enough, maybe we wouldn't notice him in the car before we drove off:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Surprise from my love

Today I woke up thinking this would be just another day: 
  1. Wake up
  2. Listen to NPR in bed
  3. Shower
  4. Continue packing
  5. Meet with movers
  6. Go to graduation
  7. etc.
Amber was already awake and slightly giddy. I didn't know why, so we cuddled for a bit and just enjoyed eachothers company before the day's activities take us on different paths. Then it happened. The lady on the radio announced today's day sponsor. Here's the message she read:

"Today's day sponsor is Amber D. Evans who says to Dr. Florin Marcu: She's proud of him and his success. He's the love of her life and always will be." 

I was so moved I couldn't hold back the tears. I love my girl so much and I'm so happy she loves me back.

Oh, did I mention I'm graduating today?

Friday, April 17, 2009

H-1B application approved!

So today I found out that the H-1B visa application that Caterpillar submitted on my behalf has been approved. Hooray!

It's been a crazy couple of weeks full of great news. Let's hope the streak continues!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Triathlon, Cycling, and More in Peoria, IL

A little research uncovered that the Peoria area isn't the best for cycling, but that doesn't mean there aren't folks out there doing it!

This appears to be one route to get to the Rock Island Trailhead from our house:

View Larger Map

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bid accepted!!!

The bid was accepted! After a few counter bids back and forth, we finally were able to settle on a price that suited everyone. Closing date is June 30 so I am going to have to find some temporary housing from my start date of May 18, but that shouldn't be a big deal. 

I'd like to finish this post with an excited "HOLY CRAP, WE'LL BE HOME OWNERS SOON!"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Passed the defense today. Just don't call me Dr.

Big news today! I passed my final defense for my Ph. D. The picture shows me shaking hands with Stefan from Volvo after my defense.

Now we're off to Peoria to look at homes. We'll be back Tuesday so if you don't get a response from us this weekend it's because we're out of town and without internet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Skiing for the first time in 2 years

This weekend Amber, myself and several of our friends went skiing to Snowshoe Mountain for a weekend of skiing. Kate and Michael put together the trip and arranged for lodging in a very nice cabin at the top of the mountain. They invited us and 4 of their other friends, Gill and Jeremy, and Marty and Dave.

Although we were worried about the ski conditions, it turned out to be fantastic (at least the first day). The weather had been very cold at the beginning of the year, then it turned really warm for a few weeks. We were expecting to have very slushy conditions and earlier in the week only about half of the slopes were open. Since it was Valentine's day weekend, they apparently opened up all their slopes and although it was just above freezing, conditions were fantastic. No ice, no slush, just snow. We skied all day Saturday, then went to the local pool and relaxed in the hot tub for a while. After that it was off to the house for dinner and games. We played Apples for Apples, which was a very fun game that really teaches you a lot about the personalities of people you're playing with. It was great to get to know Kate and Michael's friends whom we had just met for the first time.

The second day wasn't nearly as good as the temperatures dropped significantly and the semi-slushy snow turned to ice. Not much fun but we got in another good day of skiing that will hold us over until next time.