Sunday, January 26, 2014

30 Random Facts About Me

Following on my New Year's promise to bring you more personal content, here's a rather rambly post that I was tagged to do by the lovely Kar Yi at Angelic Betrayal. Get yourself a cup of tea (or a glass of something stronger... consider yourself warned) and dig in!

1. According to old wives' tales, I'd been fashion-obsessed since the tender age of three. My mum remembers that I loved playing dress up and would try just about anything on, preferrably all at once: ski hats, long scarves, dresses, coats, sunglasses - size really wasn't an issue. Having switched my attention to make-up, I can't quite say I still display the same attitude towards my clothing... but I do have some interesting choices in my closet.
Apparently, I also loved unique headgear, and liked to smirk from a very young age.
2. I don't watch horror and war movies because I get too scared. I always get very emotionally involved in whatever I'm watching (or reading), I just can't help it. I am the person who uncontrollably weeps in a movie theater; but hey, at least I'm a silent weeper.

3. I hate people leaning on or even just touching the back of the chair I'm sitting in; it makes me want to pull my hair out. Oh, and the worst of all: tapping or kicking my chair... I think the feeling of vibrations travelling through the wood into my body because of someone's mindless habit is just pure torture. I need space, man!

4. When I was in primary and middle school, stationery was my crack. I loved visiting various stationery and craft supply stores in the neighborhood, looking at pens, pencils and notebooks, and sometimes buying a silly knick knack. I especially loved cute erasers; I remember having a stiletto-shaped one, a neon coral one and a set of eraser tools - a hammer, a screw driver and a paint roller. I still love beautiful stationery and prefer handwriting notes and lists whenever possible.

5. I'm a coffee snob and I fully admit it. My favorite kind of coffee is a classic latte with a teaspoon of sugar, no flavored syrup, no caramel sauce on top (coffee drinks are something I tend to frown upon). I'm very particular about the quality of espresso shot (love my crema!) and the quantity and perfect consistency of foamy, velvety milk. The best latte I've had so far in the United States was at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and I use their Holler Mountain beans at home to make my coffee. I'm not a caffeine addict though, so if I can't have my coffee just the way I like it, I generally prefer to skip it altogether.
Photo from my Instagram (shameless plug): the only time I ever succeeded at creating latte art, and yes, it was a complete accident.
6. My heart beats quite a bit faster than an average person's, especially when I'm running or hiking. I actually started to be a bit worried about it, so I went to see a doctor, was treated like a proper hypochondriac and in the end learnt that some people's (mostly women's) hearts are just naturally set to a higher heart rate. For this reason, I dislike the whole theory that a person's heart only has a preordinate number of beats to use up in their lifetime.

7. When I was a little girl, I really wanted to be an actress; my dad actually used to be an actor so that's probably where I got the idea. I went to different acting classes for a good couple of years, won first prize in a recitation contest when I was 8, and even got a tiny part in a Polish movie when I was 12. Around the age of 14 though I became too introverted and uncomfortable on the stage to continue my acting passion. I turned my attention to writing and drawing, which required a lot less public attention.

8. I'm neither city folk or country mouse. I grew up in big Polish cities, but moving to Pacific Northwest marked me with a deep appreciation and awe of the natural world; I still think Vancouver, BC, Olympic Penninsula and the San Juan islands are some of the most scenic and breathtaking places you can visit. I do love living in New York though and revelling in all of its unique culture and history, and I can't wait to get to know East Coast a little bit better.
In the Olympic Penninsula. Yes, it's that beautiful.
9. In the past year or so, I experienced a couple instances of sleep paralysis. In case you've never heard about it, Wiki describes it as a phenomenon in which people, either when falling asleep or wakening, temporarily experience an inability to move. My bouts of sleep paralysis have always occurred when I was napping (another good reason not to) because of jet lag, always upon waking up. The feeling of being trapped in your own body is quite possibly one of the most terrifying experiences I've ever had.

10. I like to think I'm a decent cook and I definitely come from a long line of excellent cooks: my mum, both of my grandmothers and even my paternal grandpa can all cook (and bake!) absolutely delicious food. The challenge in my kitchen though is having to adapt to my husband's food allergies, which include but are not limited to cow's dairy, eggs and garlic. I think I can still do an ok job, even with these limitations, although I tend to get very bored of my own dishes. I like variety!

11. Libraries are some of my favorite places to hang out. Although I generally research what I'd like to read at a given time and then place a hold for my book online, I sometimes like to roam aimlessly and get lost between the shelves. There hasn't been a library I visited so far that I didn't like - be it a tiny local library at my parents' suburban town, a majestic Warsaw University Library with its rooftop gardens, or my current Midtown Manhattan library, right next to the historic 5th Ave Stephen A. Schwarzman building.

12. Although I'm not a very small person (I'm 5ft 6', or 167cm), I'm often regarded as one. I think it has to do with the fact that I have quite small upper body and a small head, and combined it can somehow give the impression of frailty. I'll never forget when a much shorter friend, hugging me hello in the highschool classroom, would exclaim 'You're so tiny!'. I'm much curvier now but I used to be quite willowy as a child/teenager.

13. My best friend's name is Mariya and she lives in Seattle. She's the most beautiful, smart, funny, kind, positive and compassionate person and I'm very grateful to have her in my life. For me, one of the biggest cons of moving to NYC was being separated from her and I still very much miss her, even though we try our best to talk on Skype at least once a week. Love you, Mashenka!
14. The subject of my highschool graduation presentation in literature was the poetic tools utilized by French Symbolists, and the subject of my master's thesis was translation errors in children's literature on the basis of Polish translations of 'Just Patty' by Jean Webster. I still very much enjoy Symbolist poetry, and my favorite poet is Rainer Maria Rilke. I also still very much like, read and reread children's books. So there.

15. I am by no means an atheltic or physically active person. Although I occasionally hike, play tennis and snowboard with my husband, my preference is to bury myself under a warm blanket with a good book, and maybe stretch my muscles by reaching for the tea mug. From different sporty activities I've tried in my life, dance/cardio classes like Zumba were my favorite, and I also like taking long walks.

16. My feet get cold very easily, which is why I love wearing fuzzy slippers at home and like to buy my winter boots in Poland, where you can get real leather honest-to-God cute boots with an insulating fuzzy on the inside (my newest pair has a sliver of silver on the toe cap and an exposed silver zipper at the back, and they're very high).

17. I have one brother who's older by 5 years and lives in Warsaw, and he's currently starting his own law practice. In terms of looks, none of us took very much after our parents and we don't really look much alike either, but we're always told that we have the same smile. I'll take that because I think my brother has a really cute smile - doesn't he now? I wish I had his blue grey eyes and loose curls too!
18. For a woman with a small-ish frame, I have a pretty good tolerance for alcohol. I've never tested it fully to the point of passing out (and I don't intend to, ever!), but I can hold my liquor without making a complete fool out of myself, be it wine, champagne or vodka. I'm quite sure it's all thanks to my Eastern Slavic genes passed along from my dad's side of the family. All that being said, I very rarely drink any alcohol at all.

19. My Zodiac sign is Virgo, and while I don't take much stock in horoscopes, I have to agree that I share some of the typical characteristics of this sign: I'm more of a rational, analytical thinker that needs to bring order to chaos (or you know, organized to the point of OCD), I'm quite independent, and I like to be precise and reliable in what I do. In the Chinese zodiac, my animal sign is Tiger, which is supposed to be a charming, self-possessed, courageous but rather sensitive and moody personality. I can definitely agree with sensitive and moody, but not so much with the 'charismatic leader' part. Well, Virgo & Tiger is an interesting combo anyway!

20. I like sour foods a whole lot; my favorites include lemonade, freshly squeezed orange juice, raspberries, red currants, kiwis, gooseberries, a bunch of those weird Polish fermented foodstuffs like sauerkraut, dill pickles or sour rye soup (especially zalewajka), and I love things marinated in vinegar, like cornichons, sunomono, wild mushrooms, plums or pears spiced with clove. Yum! (I'm sure half of you is salivating right now, while the other half is seriously grossed out #sorrynotsorry)
Recent Whole Foods acquisition - tastes great in salads.
21. I often can't say my exact age from the top of my head. It's something that started when I was in my early twenties, and when I'm asked about my age, my mind tends to go blank for a second or two - am I twenty-six? Or twenty-eight? Oh right, I'm still twenty-seven. I had always been very aware of my current age when I was a teenager but I guess now it just doesn't matter that much anymore; that, or I'm in denial.

22. For a beauty-obsessed person, I very much dislike having things done in the grooming department; I hate facials because I stress out and hold onto the esthetician's bed for dear life, barely tolerate pedicures because my feet are tickly, object to hair styling because duh, boring. I do like beauty rituals in the safety of my own bathroom though, and I like relaxing in a hot tub or sauna.
Squirrels in Poland are definitely red, with a super fluffy tail and extra tufty ears.
23. My highschool friends nicknamed me Squirrel, or rather Polish variations on the word, like Wiewióra, Wiórcia, Wiórka, Wiórek (the Polish language seems to have almost infinite possibilities for diminutives, which I love) - it was allegedly because of my beady brown eyes and a bushy reddish ponytail. When I was little, I was also called Mysza (mouse) for my small size and buck teeth, and in the family, I've been called different variations of my first name: Monia, Monisia, Nisia, Niśka or even Nizioł (from niziołek, which is Polish for hobbit).
And a surreptitious drawing of a hobbit, from David Day's book.
24. I love me a good comedy TV series, and we have many favorites in the fam: obviously Monty Python, 'Allo 'Allo, Fawlty Towers, Wings, Keeping Up Appearances, As Time Goes By, My Family, and more recently, Frasier. Well, truth being said, I just love a good TV series full stop; on Kate's recommendation, I've just started watching Miss Korea. I'm always on the lookout for new ones to add to my list, so let me know if there's something I absolutely have to watch!

25. Often when I'm thinking hard (or just lost in thought, aimlessly staring into space), I tend to move my feet subconsciously: I wiggle and turn my ankles, rock my leg from knee down, tap my toes on the floor. Funnily enough, my dad and brother do it too, and we jokingly compare it to the leg movements of a chirping cricket (uhm, I stand corrected: apparently crickets chirp by rubbing one wing against the other, not their legs... who knew?).

26. When I was in college, I learnt by way of an experiment at a non verbal communication class that I sometimes intimidate people by staring them down when they're speaking. I was quite confused to learn that anyone at all can find me intimidating, and I don't do it on purpose in the least - I think I just listen a bit too intently to what the other person has to say, and it helps me to understand their meaning better if I can look at them - which is one of the reasons I hate talking on the phone.
I swear I don't mean to stare... or do I? 
27. I enjoy collecting obscure and phonetically interesting words in different languages, like tchotchkes (which comes from Yiddish through Polish!), zarzamora, kerfuffle, Saperlipopette!, małżowina or harapuć. I also have a separate list of interesting town names, especially in Poland: Czachy Kołaki, Krzyczki Żabiczki, Tłustomosty, and obsolete first names: Mściwój,  Krzywosąd, Apollonia, Scholastyka or Melchisadek, Digory, Eulalia, Kerenhappuch. What are your favorites?

28. Speaking of collecting, I had some very interesting collections when I was a child: stickers, pages from cartoon notepads, little toys from Kinder Surprise, stamps, printed napkins, seashells, silver necklace charms, small tins and giftboxes. I'm obviously a collector at heart but I now try to avoid amassing too many things; apart from make-up though, I like buying tea cups, books, scarves and earrings, and we also receive a variety of fridge magnets from our families' travels in Europe and beyond.
Newest addition: a tiny espresso cup, handmade in Bolesławiec
29. I'm more of a dog than a cat person (sorry to all of you cat people out there, I'm allergic!). When I was maybe six or seven, my family adopted an incredibly friendly and energetic Welsh terrier puppy, Dina. She was a bit of a naughty but intelligent dog, and she used to greet me with a wagging tail, jumps and doggy kisses every morning and every time I came home from school. We loved her. She sadly passed away at the venerable age of 14 and she's buried in the woods behind my parents' house.

30. I carry a scale from our Christmas carp fish in my wallet for good luck. Every year, my mum puts some scales aside for us at the request of my dad, who then makes sure they're being carefully stowed away in wallets and purses. I'm not a superstitious person but I regard it more as a family tradition that I'd like to pass along one day.

Gosh darn it, this was hard, you guys - hopefully you're not bored to death now and at least you had a good laugh looking at pictures of me as a kid. I don't usually tag anyone, but I'd love to see some random ramblings from Driveller Kate at drivel about frivol, Bellyhead at Wondegondigo, Liz at Beauty Reductionista and everyone who feels like it. Spill it, ladies!


  1. This was fun to read, thanks for sharing! I, too, really love the Olympic Peninsula and other spots around the PNW. That's a gorgeous photo of you in the forest.

  2. MONIKA My love! I simply adored this post and scrolled back up to the beginning as soon as I finished it for the first time to reread <3

    I LOVE Jean Webster's Patty books -- when I was 8 I wrote "a Victorian Vassar college girl" in answer to a standard "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question XD I still kind of want to grow up to be as cool as Patty.

    Flailing madly over all the lovely, sweet pictures in this post. Babby M! Brother M! COVETABLE TEACUP! WORDS :D

    Yiddish is full of delicious, necessary ones: I also love schlemiel, kvetch (and kvetching!), bupkes, mishegas, schvitzer, so many. Myötähäpeä (Finnish for vicarious embarrassment) is probably the most visually interesting one (i.e. haz menny dots).

  3. I can never remember my age, either! I always could as a teen, but now I have to think and maybe even calculate the year T_T Or I ask S., hahaha. I don't know what it is!

    Loved reading this, Monika. Oh! Rainer Maria Rilke is my favorite poet, as well, although I don't have your advantage of being able to read it in multiple languages (though I don't think his French poems are my favorite) - that is a goal of mine!

  4. Kar Yi tagged me as well and I have been typing up a few facts a day. 30 facts is a tough order! I enjoyed reading this, you were so cute as a child. I love sour things as well! Pickles, vingear, limes, well all citrus in general, give it to me. My mouth always waters when I think about sour foods and drinks.

  5. Oh gosh, this was a fun read. So when we meet (yes WHEN!), I promise not to touch or kick your chair and will try to remain calm and unintimidated by your thoughtfulness. :D Little Monika was super adorable and I love that you collect words and meaningful trinkets. I recently started to downsize some of those things too and it's tough letting go of memories and personal treasures. Anyway, it really is nice to get to know you better and I'll try to do justice to the tag soon! xo

  6. Thanks for doing the tag! I had such a fun time reading your facts and your childhood photos are adorable! I'm also so wary of getting beauty treatments done by "professionals". I'm really ticklish and am self conscious about my skin to have a massage and I'm scared a facial will break me out. As a child I also collected nice stationary and writing utensils. Eventually I lost so many pens and pencils to friends who would borrow them that I became discouraged and stopped buying nice ones :( You have to teach me more about coffee sometime!

  7. I don't know what is more adorable, the picture of you with the very (ahem) interesting head gear, or your fluffy red squirrel. :) The ones here are not all that cute eh? Though I like when I see the occasional black ones. #30! I love it, a talisman. I carry mostly lint. I'm convinced one is at least bringing me good luck. To pass on to my heirs, from dryer to pocket to children. Circle of life. :DD

  8. Tag posts! Yay! I love all the pictures you included––you were SO CUTE as a kid :) And I agree, Stumptown has the best coffee, albeit rather unfortunately priced, heh.

    And I'm so glad I'm not the only one who doesn't enjoy spa-ish things! I've never had a facial, I'll admit (my skin freaks out at everything, so I've always figured it would hurt more than help), but I loathe anyone touching my feet. Too ticklish!

  9. This was such a fun read! Oh man, I can't imagine the food restricted by your husband's allergies! I applaud you, most of the things I cook contain all those things!

    I'm also really forgetful about my age. I can always name what year I was born in, my social security number, even my credit cards and one library card number off the top of my head... just not my age!

    1. Umm, yeah, this past week I had to mix it up for myself: I prepared garlic-less bolognese for him, and eggy, creamy carbonara for me... Yum! I'm not great at memorizing numbers in general, I'm much better with words, but there's something particularly tricky about this age thing ;)

  10. Yay for PNW, I agree with you, I think this area is very beautiful and I am thankful each and every time I get to go places that has such natural beauty. And wow, squirrels are red in Poland, my son will go gaga after this squirrel for sure!! Ditto Amy for the cute picture of you as a kid!

    1. Squirrels are such cuties in Poland, in Warsaw there's plenty of them in the parks but they're definitely more shy than their American cousins, they won't come close even if you have nuts for them! Thank you, Claire :)

  11. - being fron vancouver, yes i agree that its beaufitul! lol
    - my leg was once paralyzed when i woke up. i didn't know until i got out of bed and my leg gave out so i fell to the floor. it was sort of scary.
    - hurray for fully using holds at the library i do that too!!
    - half the time i dont remember what my age is and i constantly shocked when i actually figure it out lol
    thanks for all these random facts :) it was great to get to know you better.