Tuesday, August 16, 2016

600th Post: Q & A and 6th Blog Anniversary

Thank you so much for returning to reading this blog. I greatly appreciate your sweet comments of support during my absence. I missed you too. Your sincere words meant a lot to me. Grazie. I did not intend to take a break, but life certainly threw me for a loop and I was trying to hold on the best I could. That story simply does not have a place on this blog. I identify as a lifestyle blogger, so without engaging in my beloved hobby lately, I felt like a piece of myself was missing. It feels so good to be back. Inspiring others to live well by indulging in simple pleasures, cultivating signature items, and elevating the everyday is important to me and I plan to continue as long as possible. Short-term, I hope to use August to slowly get back into the habit of blogging. Starting in September, I plan to return with my regular schedule of posting every Sunday and publishing nine times a month for 31-day months and eight times for months with fewer days for the remainder of the calendar year. I wanted to make a point to publish today because August 16, 2016 is this blog's 6th anniversary! Check out my first post here.



Finally! My special 600th post, my first Q & A!



First of all, thank you for your fantastic questions! I hope you enjoy my answers!

Questions for the italiagal:

Andrea asked, 
I'd love to know your thoughts on self discipline and routine/ritual, vs. going with the flow and enjoying the moment. Which works better when, and how much?

In recent years, I find that I thrive on routine. My life runs smoothly based upon routine. I work to develop good habits which makes accomplishing tasks natural, eliminating making decisions. Deciding on something or creating a plan takes energy and actually saps self discipline. As a result, I get more done. Plus, when you keep up with something regularly, it doesn't pile up, thus take longer to tackle. This allows more time for play.

As an INFJ, I think about how I can improve pretty much constantly, so it's ideal to do my chores and then relax. This doesn't always happen, making my down time not so relaxing. Like after a shift, for example, I may need a immediate break to sip wine, eat cheese and crackers, prepare and eat dinner, and/or relax before jumping into that weeknight's designated chore. Regarding my routine, the following is what I usually do each day of the week. I accomplish more on Sunday and Monday, the days I am off from work.

Michelle's Cleaning and Chore Schedule:
Sunday: grocery shopping; make tea for week; laundry
Monday: cook and bake for week; clean kitchen; wash windows and sliding glass door; dust
Tuesday: vacuum
Wednesday: clean bathroom and mop kitchen floor
Thursday: vacuum
Friday: schedule payments/pay bills
Saturday: take out trash and recycling

Instead of designating a particular day, I also stay on top of weekly and monthly beauty-related routines by checking the same items off a couple of master lists. Although, I usually focus on accomplishing them on and soon after the first day of the week or month to get them out of the way.

I know myself. I am also well aware that my energy level is at its lowest around 7:30 PM each day, so at that time, I usually rest. At least, I know to not try to blog and try my best to clean up after dinner by then until I regain some of my energy and creativity to resume my evening activities. In addition, I have been slowly rising earlier and earlier. I am consistent about it too, even rising at the same time on weekends. I feel most energetic and creative during the morning and early afternoon. I strive to accomplish as much as I can when I have the most energy and give myself a break when I don't.

I am value-driven and truly believe that balance is key in life. If I work hard, I could play hard, but really I need a bit of time alone not doing much of anything. The Italians have a saying, dolce far niente, or the "sweetness of doing nothing." That definitely restores my energy. I need my energy back in order to be my best. I suppose I schedule time to be unscheduled! I do love to be spontaneous every once in awhile. So concerned with happiness, I make a point to savor simple pleasures daily. Any preparation, purchasing ingredients or making a plan for the outing or activity, tends to be done on a weekly basis.

Again, I always want to improve as an INFJ. Once I have a handle on new habits, I don't spend a lot of time acknowledging my progress, but quickly add on more instead. I know the way I want to improve my productivity next. I want to write longer to do lists under each day in my planner, more than those chores listed above. I could make this a habit either every night or morning. This would be effective for those as needed chores like carpet stain removal. When I am efficient with tasks, then I have more spare time to do whatever I want ...or like I said, not do anything for a bit. I could also schedule leisure activities as well, that way I may actually do them. After that, I must come up with a blogging schedule or plan.


Stephanie asked:
1. How do you keep your apartment clutter free?

This is about motivation and values. A place for everything and everything in its place. I firmly believe that every single thing needs a home. I like a straightened home, with everything put away. This is not really a specific chore to check off a to do list for me, just something I do after finished doing something. For example, if my laptop battery dies while lounging on the sofa, then I plug it in at my desk to sit there, arranging and fluffing the throw pillows before I leave. I prefer things finished.

I grew up in a messy household, complete with an antique dealer mom, and I now longer care for that. I truly live who I am as an adult (and I've always wanted to be grown up). It is important to surround myself with beauty. I need a beautiful home. My ideal is a decluttered home. I promote only possessing, finding a home for, and taking care of what you love, use, and find beautiful. Less is more. I don't keep stuff I don't like. Having regularly decluttered for years, I no longer accumulate bags of trash and donations, but focus on mail/catalogues, coupons, freebies, the little things. I also enjoy entertaining and hope my home is ready for company at any moment. Sometimes, when life is hard for close friends, it's nice that time spent in my apartment without too much visual noise along with me actively listening acts an oasis. Also, I love Instagram now and don't wish to capture a messy background! Plus, if I am truly trying to live the chic life of a domestic goddess, then it is fitting that my home should be straightened and definitely clutter free.

2. What was your favorite thing you did on your trips to Italy and Paris?

In both places, what comes to mind first is having breakfast. In Italy, standing at a bar shooting back an espresso and eating a cornetto or seated at a table sipping a cappuccino in a mug accompanied by that cornetto. In Paris, savoring a pain au chocolat with a cappuccino on a bench in the courtyard of the Louvre with Elizabeth. I had to acquire a taste for coffee and it makes me think of Italy. Plus, I really love carbs. This meal is also at the beginning of the day of travel, exploring a new place. Few things in life are better than that. I am filled with anticipation for what I will discover.

3. It seems like you take your time deciding to make purchases. What is your process for deciding what items you will bring into your life? Do you plan ahead and budget for them and if so, how far in advance do you plan?

I'm actually quite decisive, especially when the item is perfect. If it does not match my vision, then I must decide if I am going to settle at that moment. Purchases are actually delayed because I simply do not make much more money than it takes to cover my bills. That is a choice; it is a dream to live in my apartment with a balcony on my own, plus I like having a job that I enjoy and that is important work. I am an INFJ, so I either obsess over something or do not like it much at all.


Once I see something I like, which is usually online since I do not like to drive and thus I am not often in stores anymore, I would like to have it right then and there. I like things finished. This doesn't happen a lot though. So picky, I can scroll through whole websites and go through entire malls and not like anything. I don't think that so many things are "cute" like other women seem to. It would be easier if my standards weren't so high.

But often I do not have the money or the money I do have is already designated for groceries, wine, beauty and cleaning products, and gifts until my next paycheck. In that case, I pin the item, add it to my Amazon.com Wish List and/or Shopping List on my phone. I try to spend less in one area to devote money for the item or use part of a larger paycheck with some commission money. The second I can afford it, I buy it. Early on a payday Friday, possibly before espresso if you can believe it, I tend to order something off my Amazon.com Wish List. Of course, all my bill payments are already scheduled to be taken out that day.

If the item is over $100, then I may not be able to afford it ...or it would take me a long time to do so. In fact, it could languish on a list for years. Over the years, my parents have generously given me the desired yet costly item or given me money towards it on a special occasion. With many of my possessions, I can look at something and think Christmas or birthday [gift] ...or perhaps something I needed for a new home. I look at my white comforter, for example, and think Christmas 2015. My mom likes getting each of her children a big gift he or she wants at Christmas and then to shop for a few little things that she thinks we would like. I say that we've been spoiled for our entire lives and it can stop. I am incredibly grateful for their help in making my apartment a home though.

I enjoy shopping for home items much more than clothing and anything else. As a lifestyle blogger, I deeply care about how I live and what I surround myself with. As a traveler, I will save for over two years for an international trip. I always prioritize spending and saving.

There are times of the year when I working a purchase into my budget isn't as difficult. Typically, I can afford more and acquire wishlist items and everyday things more quickly during the summer when I collect more commission in my paycheck. I usually decide which paycheck I am going to use instead of which date I am going to buy it. I also believe in the capsule wardrobe. Usually you shop just before the season is to begin and then once set, you stop shopping. I usually spoil myself around my birthday. When you are paid every two weeks, I think there are a couple of months a year that you have a third paycheck and one of those would be dedicated to enjoying my birthday in the spring. I like to splurge on a day trip, longer travels, or a shopping spree in the fall, but I suppose that I save a lot of the other one to help get me through Christmastime and the winter, a time without much commission. People just don't tend to move in through 29 inches of snow...

4. What is your most favorite blog post that you have written?

This is a difficult question. I truly love places, so writing all about what I did on a recent trip would be among my favorites. Check out this one from my first days discovering and delighting in the beauty that is Paris. Furthermore, whenever I move to someplace I love, I would like to do another weekly series highlighting the discovery of a new place within that city or town.

5. How did you unplug from cable tv? I guess I'm curious how that is going and if you have an alternative form of entertainment with subscriptions like netflix or other things. Thanks!

One September years ago now, I donated my outdated TV. Before then, I only had a few channels. My favorite was TLC. I watched the same episodes of Say Yes to the Dress, Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta, Long Island Medium, Breaking Amish, and Sister Wives over and over again. I wanted to stop wasting my time and go out, especially after I move to a new place. I decided to eliminate the distraction. I thoroughly enjoy life without cable.

It wasn't only shows I kind of liked, I also felt obligated to watch the evening news, a bit of the Today show in the morning, State of the Unions, Olympics, award shows, etc. because "I should" and to use what I viewed in conversation in coming days. Instead of watching the news on TV, I now learn about what's going on from theSkimm weekday newsletters. I love them. They are actually geared toward those real life conversations. If it's the weekend, I may log onto Facebook to browse and come across an outraged post about some sort of violence from a friend, despite having very limited friends on the social media site. I may also spot an odd image on Instagram. Curious, I immediately go to google and click News to check out the top stories, and it's always a match.

Right before I got rid of the TV, I bought myself a Kindle. I truly replaced TV viewing with reading.

In addition to my Kindle, I use another device, my computer. I watch the full episodes of House Hunters International posted on their website. That's my only "current" TV show at the moment. I also watch movies every once in awhile on my laptop. I suppose I got into YouTube this calendar year. Subscribing to several channels, my favorites are The Daily Connoisseur and How Jen Does It. I truly look forward to Monday when typically there's a new video on both of these channels. I do not have and have never had netflix. I do have Amazon Prime however. I'm on my second membership, with no plans not to renew. I sometimes watch a movie for free, but not any of the TV shows (yet). I am far more interested in the free 2-day shipping perk than any other.

I actually just received the generous gift of a small used TV from a friend on Sunday afternoon, but it's not functional yet as I was not yet given the power cord. I still have no desire for a cable subscription, but my media viewing may possibly increase with a bigger screen soon. If it's hooked up to my computer or external disk drive, at least I can hostess movie nights again!

I do my laundry at my parents' place every Sunday or rarely Monday and since the TV is on nearly 24/7 there, I usually watch some TV at that time. Say Yes to the Dress is usually on during Sunday afternoons. It's not like that's all I do there, I may eat, spend time with my mom doing other things, or play with the family dog.


Fiona asked:
1. You live a very simple and peaceful life it seems, what is your inspiration for this and how do you top up on inspiration?

I'm an INFJ, so I have a complex mind. I'm always thinking and every thought is connected to another one. I use a lot of these thoughts to daydream like you. I believe in balance, so because I am far from simple on the inside, I strive to have a simple lifestyle. Plus, I value simplicity and am very value-driven, so I do strive to lead a simple life for its own sake. Therefore, my motivation comes from within.

I love decluttering because it allows you to live with only the items you love and use. I find tidying resources online. If I truly feel I need cleaning or organizing inspiration, I may view videos from the YouTube Channel How Jen Does It. I especially liked to read decluttering articles online, mostly from Pinterest, but that has sharply declined since I discovered what works for me after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I love her decluttering criteria of asking, Does this spark joy? I believe that's the way to go. I happen to disagree with so many of her organizing principles however. Many of your blog posts actually always stick with me, Fiona. Now that my life is calming down a bit, I need to read your book [Thirty Chic Days: Practical Inspiration for a Beautiful Life] again and take notes for more inspiration.

I have an irrational fear of driving, currently do not own a vehicle, and was raised to be independent in practical matters, so I tend to walk to accomplish as many errands as possible. Like you, I enjoy walking to do errands because it resembles a European lifestyle. I stroll to the grocery store, a big box store, and a liquor store nearly every week (except when I make myself drive there for practice). It's combining exercise and errands. I go in what I'm wearing at home and for the day, so it eliminates the need for separate workout clothes, which is simple.

I also love routine. This makes life simple, since you do not have so many decisions, you do something at that time every week as a habit. I have a cleaning schedule, for example. My beauty routines are a bit more flexible, checked off a weekly or monthly master list. I don't think, oh, I haven't done a facial mask in awhile, I should do that tonight because I've already decided on the frequency. My firm belief in habits stems from Gretchen Rubin and her book Better Than Before.

2. What is a typical daily routine like for you? (I always love reading these - nosy!)

I wake up insanely early to brew a couple cups of espresso in a moka pot. I lay low, allowing the caffeine to activate me before I get ready for the day. I shower, straighten my wavy hair, apply le no makeup look, get dressed, put on earrings, spritz my signature scent, and have some time to do something like send an email before either going to work or tackling my to do list on my days off.

Tuesday through Friday, I walk down the steps to the office by 9 AM and walk back up the steps after 6 PM. On Saturday, I work by 9:30 and am off at 5. When I'm not terribly busy (like I am the last two weeks of July and the first two of August), I take a lunch hour at home. Usually I eat leftovers for lunch, possibly salad when it's fresh early in the week.

I like to wind down with a glass of red wine accompanied by cheese on crackers after work but before dinner. Or I could wind down by taking a walk immediately after work, weather permitting. (Unfortunately, it's been very hot and humid here lately.) On a budget, I eat a lot of pasta for dinner, maybe salad early in the week, but have a few different dishes I can cook. I enjoy cooking. I sneak in a chore between the things I feel like doing that evening. Sometimes, I have a friend over Thursday evening. Reading in bed is something I usually do before I go to sleep. I try to shut down screens with an alarm on my phone at 9:45 PM, so I can sleep better.

I live for my days off. Besides that maintenance schedule of cleaning and preparing for the week, I usually have a plan, a mix of both fun (either alone or social) and down time. Of course, it changes every weekend. One day of my last weekend, I was social. On the other day, I spent some time in the kitchen, preparing foods that celebrated summer, pesto and beef kebabs. I usually always walk to the store(s) after getting ready Sunday morning. I usually bake for the week (or more) every Monday morning, stocking my freezer with most of the batch. In fact, I changed it up with blueberry muffins (from the Betty Crocker box mix) yesterday.

3. If YOU wrote a book, what would it be called and what would it be about?

For years and years, since I love reading, I thought if I wrote a book, then it would be an Italy travel memoir like Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. Now, I think it would be a book of life lessons learned from a specific trip to an Italian destination, something similar to Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott who wrote about her study abroad experience in Paris or the lesser known Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.) by Karen A. Chase who documented but further reflected upon a long 40th birthday trip to the same city. I'm not sure what it would be called yet, but I would work hard on the perfect title.


Kim asked:
1. I am interested in how you budget as well. Especially groceries. Also in your daily and weekly planning. 

I pay my rent with one paycheck and all my other bills with my other paycheck each month. So much of my budget for groceries, cleaning supplies, beauty products, and extras depends upon how much I have left over in that next paycheck. I usually spend $20-$30 each week at the grocery store, about that much each week at Target too, and about $17 at the wine shop either every week or every other (depending upon how I entertain). Rarely, especially during the summer with better paychecks though, I will spend double that amount, but spending over $60 would be odd. I really work the discount app Cartwheel at Target and try to buy things on sale in general. I do not buy a lot of more expensive meat. During the winter, I would limit myself to 10 or so items a store as well. The 10 items on my grocery list. I add items to my grocery list and my separate Target list in a notepad on my desk throughout the week. Just before I am off to go shopping, I slip these two sheets of paper into my handbag. At each store, I only grab a cart a time or two a year. Instead, I limit myself by loading up a basket at both the grocery store and Target. When that's full, it's time to check out. Plus, I usually walk to the store and am able to tote a basket full of items back. 12 items or less, I usually use the self check-out lane at the grocery store. When I spent more than usual at the grocery store last time and chose another lane, the cashier remarked that I carried so much in the basket. I quickly replied about it's a way to limit myself due to budget. In addition, maybe once or a few times a summer, I'll buy tomatoes, other fresh produce, and maybe sunflowers at my local farmer's market. I love to eat, so I always have an idea of what I want to have that week and it's fairly consistent week-to-week, but I don't really meal plan. I should start meal planning so I can add some more variety to my diet, listing ingredients for new recipes to try. I strive to live well within my means.

2. How did you decide what clothing types worked best for your body type. 

I still have Stacy and Clinton's (of TLC's What Not To Wear) words regarding what fits and flatters in general in my head. I am very concerned with what works for me and may even comment upon silhouette. I like whatever makes me appear longer and leaner. I have an hourglass figure so I elements that work well with that: v-necks, a tailored or wrapped waistline, and knee-length A-line hems. Or for pants: bootcut, straight leg, trousers, maybe ankle or cropped. Nothing skinny, flare, or boyfriend. Nothing can be too loose nor too tight. A top shouldn't be too long and cover my hips, calling attention to  their width. Anything with a bit more polish like dark denim. I like structured fitted garments like a sheath dress or fitted blazer. A lot of structure reminds me of the Duchess of Cambridge, a style icon for me. I love classic style. I want to own those essentials in a capsule wardrobe every season such as a white shirt. I love black ballet flats. One of my favorite accessories is a bright scarf. I prefer jewelry that is simple, delicate and classic like diamond (well, cubic zirconia) studs. I live in turquoise tear drop jewelry on summer weekends though.

3. How did you/do you decide on beauty products and skin care routines. Looking forward to all the Q & A.

Honestly, I tend to rely on what I have always used. I do not happen to try new products often as I cannot afford it. When shopping in Target, I quickly pick up the product on my list. I do not browse. Even though I love expertise, I have not asked a professional working in skin care about my own skin yet.

For makeup, I've always bought CoverGirl at the drug store or a big box store until I somehow learn of a better product in a magazine article, pin on Pinterest, blog post or YouTube video. I put a mask of makeup on to achieve a look like I'm not wearing any! Sometimes I just like the names of colors, especially the nail polishes by OPI and Essie. I love a travel-related name. I'm wearing Red Hot Rio by OPI in honor of the Olympics on my toenails.

I don't have a lot of money for an extensive skin care routine either. I do hear about cult classics like Simple Micellar Cleansing Water and St. Ives Fresh Skin Apricot Scrub and manage to buy these products with a Cartwheel discount at Target. I also regularly replace Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen, picking it up from Target as well. I found my facial mask, the Epicuren Volcanic Clay Purifying Mask, from a recommendation from one of the Madame Chic books. Jennifer wrote that it deeply cleans out pores and the ones on my nose are big. I order it on Amazon. Affordability is also a factor in deciding upon how often I engage in my skin care routine. I can only afford to apply my facial mask twice a month. If I doubled that amount, using the product once a week, then I would have to replace the little tube twice as often.

4. Any beauty magazines you read on a regular basis? 

I no longer read beauty or fashion magazines, but did for years. I might possibly pick one up for the beach, but usually opt for a lifestyle, a home decor, or a travel one instead. Not into trends, I was usually disappointed. After I had read The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia and started to think about cultivating a classic style that was really me, I found that I was no longer interested in treating myself to an expensive fashion magazine every once in awhile, or for the beach or train. Instead I go online as I enjoy blogs for recommendations, Pinterest for resources and YouTube for favorites, empties, and hauls.

5. How do you choose the books you read?

I rarely enter bookstores or my local library anymore to browse, so most of the books I read I discover online. Often, I will stumble upon books from amazon's suggestions, especially those similar to what I have previously purchased on the website. I may read one promoted by Shannon of The Simply Luxurious Life, especially in a This & That blog post that publishes every Friday morning. Sometimes, theSkimm will recommend a book in their newsletter. A blogger, reader or other person I follow on Instagram will share a photo of a cup of tea and the cover of a book, and I will then investigate the title on amazon. I will also read books written by the bloggers whose blogs I follow, although I try to limit my blogroll.

I prefer easy, breezy books such as novels during the summer, but can be more serious with non-fiction during the fall, winter, or even spring.

In addition, I do have favorite authors, so will read any historical fiction from Tracy Chevalier and any of the Madame Chic series by Jennifer L. Scott.

5. Are you on Goodreads?

No, I am not. That may be an easier way to record what I read rather than draft lengthy reviews on my blog, but it's another social media site, and I already spend too much time on Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube with a little bit of time on Facebook as it is. At this time, I'd rather not keep up with another one.



Again, thank you for all the questions! I truly appreciate your assistance in making this blog post a success. I hope I helped someone with an answer.



Saturday, June 4, 2016

Book Review: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

I discovered the novel Delicious! by Ruth Reichl through an Amazon recommendation awhile ago and just knew it would make the cut for my summer reading list. Plus, since I had fallen out of the habit of reading lately, for my first book of the summer, I knew I wanted a work of fiction that I would devour in a couple of days. Having started Monday afternoon and finished Wednesday evening, this book was perfect. I love being captivated by a good story.

I downloaded the eBook from the 3M Cloud Library, which I accessed through my library system. I read it on my Kindle. Although, since the main character's close friend uses wonderful old-fashioned formal diction, the Kindle version would be ideal because you can tap a word and receive the definition automatically. Not that it is difficult. In fact, I didn't Google a single word because I either knew each one or could figure it out in context. The free format was better for me.



This is a story of a college-aged woman named Billie who lands a job at a food magazine in New York City, far away from home and school in California. She has a gift in her amazing palate. With one taste, she can name all the ingredients in a dish, even uncommon ones! She can also easily recommend what ingredient the dish needs or needs more of in order for it to improve. Despite this talent, Billie does not cook. This is just one of many ways that she holds herself back, mainly due to family issues. I adore her colorful friends, Italian ones included, who help her create a new life. The long-running magazine shuts down, but she is the only employee allowed to stay in order to deal with warranty issues. In her grand workplace, she and a former colleague discover hidden scattered letters from a twelve-year old girl who enjoys cooking to famous chef James Beard during World War II. This included history enriches the story. All of this leads her to a few more adventures, love, and healing. I love how she blossoms. Such growth. There are a lot of life lessons for the reader. I highly recommend this book.



This is my 599th post. I am dedicating my next one (the 600th!) to answering your questions, so if you have a question, please ask me in the comment section or on any of the blog's social media. I normally post about a simple pleasure or signature item every Sunday, but I will break that tradition just this once. Instead, I will work on drafting detailed answers tomorrow. Since I've had so many wonderful inquiries over the last day, I'm unsure when you may expect the Q&A post to go live. Probably sometime next week. Thank you so much for your questions!



Friday, June 3, 2016

Summer 2016 Reading List

One of my items on my summer to do list was to get back into reading. I started the first book on this list last Monday afternoon and finished it Wednesday evening. Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed this return to reading so far. I intentionally kept the following list short, so that if titles on my prior lists still pique my interest, then I can read them as well. From my Spring 2016 Reading List, for example, I would really love to finish my hardcover copy of all in good taste by Kate Spade New York. This book on entertaining has been sitting on my night stand for months! In addition, if I come across something good, I can read even more!

Plus, during the summer, I relish reading a book poolside, on the beach, or simply outdoors to get some sun. I look forward to reading every title on this list.

Michelle's Summer 2016 Reading List:


1
Or at the library.

I have already read Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl and loved it! Anticipate my glowing review soon! This was also the perfect book to use to get back into reading. In fact, I devoured this wonderful work of fiction in two and a half days. This is a story of a young woman who lands a job at a food magazine in New York City. She has a gift in her amazing palate. With one taste, she can determine all the ingredients in a dish, even weird ones! She can also easily recommend what ingredient the dish needs or needs more of in order for it to improve. The magazine shuts down, but this launches another adventure, complete with a little World War II history. Through all of this, the reader witnesses her tremendous personal growth. I downloaded an eBook through my library.


2
Or at the library.

I enjoy entertaining and look forward to reading Lauren Conrad Celebrate by Lauren Conrad. Full of photos as well as tips and examples, this guide comes highly reviewed. I expect it to inspire me to throw elegant affairs on a budget throughout the year. I placed a hold on this book at my library.


3
Or at the library.

I selected Invincible Summer by Alice Adams from this list of new books from the lovely Shannon of the blog The Simply Luxurious Life. This novel follows the lives of a group of friends during their 20s and 30s who live across Europe. Again, I placed a hold on this book at the library.


4

I truly look forward to reading Thirty Chic Days: Practical Inspiration for a Beautiful Life by Fiona Ferris of the blog How to be Chic. This is a fun French-inspired guide for living each day beautifully. I adore her blog and usually find that her words stick with me. Since I am not spending any money on the previous books on this list (nor am I shelling out any more money on the titles from lists intended for past seasons), I am planning to purchase the paperback on Amazon next Friday with my paycheck. I would like to own this one.


What will you read this summer?



I do realize that since May had 31 days, I promised 9 blog posts that month and only managed 8. Readers, I sincerely apologize. I will try better next time. I will also try not to beat myself up over not hitting my goal both now and in the future. 



I simply adore this blog's intimate community. ...but since my audience remains on the small side, I truly need questions for my upcoming Q&A blog post. So, if you would like to know what clothing item I cannot wait to wear this summer, how I organize my jewelry, what I daydream of doing in Italy next, or are curious about something else, please ask me in a comment. Friends, I need your help in making this special 600th post successful. I look forward to receiving more questions. Grazie.



Monday, May 30, 2016

Things To Do: Summer 2016 Edition

To celebrate summer, I wanted to create a wish list of fun activities. I have done this in the past. Check out my summer bucket list from 2012, 2013, and 2014. From Memorial Day through Labor Day this year, I aim to accomplish the following activities.

Michelle's Summer 2016 To Do List:

1. Arrange fresh flowers at home at least three times. 
Having flowers at home more frequently is a new year's resolution of mine. At the very least, I will bring home a bouquet once during June, July, and August. Hopefully I'll have sunflowers in my large white pitcher by the end of summer. Here are the ones I picked up during August 2014...



2. Mix a batch of blood orange margaritas.
I love to sip a margarita on the rocks in the summertime. Blood orange ones are my favorite and I have blood orange syrup at home. This one featured in the image below is from a batch shared with a friend on my balcony last July.



3. Get back into reading.
Instead of reading lately, I have been watching YouTube videos. I'm starting to miss reading books and plan to make a glorious return to reading this summer. I plan to finish at least four books this season. In addition to possibly catching up on previous reading lists, I have a few new selections in mind, like this one...

Available on Amazon
Or at the library.


4. Make my signature pasta salad.
I created my pasta salad back in 2012 and wish to make this summery dish. I recently purchased this highly reviewed mini food chopper on Amazon, so I could use that for some of the ingredients such as the red onion. The following image is what I contributed to a cookout during May 2015.



5. Have lunch or dinner in a restaurant's outdoor seating.
I enjoy dining al fresco and do not often go out to dinner, so why not combine the two? I don't have to dine at a sidewalk cafe like this one that I snapped a picture of in Paris this summer...



6. Dine at Vivo Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar.
I dined at this wonderful restaurant a town away a year ago and always wished to return, but have not yet. Read about my experience in this post. I remember that they have outdoor seating, so, really, I could knock out two birds with one stone! This pizza again or a pasta dish?



7. Sip a glass of limoncello.
I hope to purchase a bottle of this summery drink at my favorite wine shop in Annapolis. My mom, who is an antique dealer, gave me two stemmed cordial glasses yesterday.



My previous seasonal lists have been 10, 12, and 13 items long. Limiting this list to 7 is a way to be realistic. Summer is my busiest season at work by far. Plus, a situation in my life continues to be rough. I just don't want to add too much to my plate.



Have a wonderful summer!



Don't forget to ask me your question(s) for my upcoming Q&A blog post! Read about my request here.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Chicken Salad

One of my top five favorite things that I have ever eaten and will ever eat is my grandmother's famous chicken salad, especially in sandwich form. That is saying something because sometimes when you take a bite of something in Italy, the flavor(s) and texture(s) stop you in your tracks. Her chicken salad is simple; it consists of diced chicken, celery and a homemade "salad dressing." Growing up, whenever I visited her in Delaware, I would usually always have some as much as I could! I don't believe she makes it anymore, but relatives try and end up with a close result at family events. Maybe I'll copy the recipe and attempt to perfect it myself... All of her children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren grew up eating it and rave about her's. Even me, the one who does not like mayonnaise!

I do not normally stock this condiment in my home. If I do own a bottle of mayo or Miracle Whip salad dressing, then I likely toss it into the trash unopened long past its expiration date. The only things I can think of that I consume containing this ingredient are chicken salad and cole slaw. If I eat or prepare pasta salad, macaroni salad, or potato salad, it would be olive oil-based.

I'm really picky about ordering a chicken salad sandwich in a restaurant or for takeout. Usually, it is drenched in mayo! And then, they may try to make it fancy by adding grapes, cranberries, walnuts, etc. which I am simply not into. I realize that I'm not being very Pinterest popular on that one!

Luckily, the deli of my local grocery store makes a pretty decent Rotisserie Chicken Salad. This simple variety is quite the popular item. Craving some sort of sandwich this week, I picked up a pound this morning. This more expensive prepared food is an out-of-the-ordinary purchase for me.




For lunch today, I piled it high between two slices of a round Italian loaf I selected from the deli department (that I had yet to try). The coarse crumb of the bread contrasted with the soft chicken salad, so it was a better choice than a plain soft loaf of white "Italian" bread from the bread aisle that I was planning to buy since it's so much cheaper. I added a sprinkle of celery salt, which I normally do, to cut the mayo taste just a bit. On the side, I had a few grape tomatoes, slices of sharp cheddar, and Harvest Wheat Toasteds crackers as well as a serving of (five) pretzels (another out-of-the-ordinary (but usually craved in the summer) item and just a bit of a healthier option than chips). It was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed this simple pleasure that goes way back to childhood for me.

Do you have a family food that you simply love?



Monday, May 23, 2016

Call for Questions


This is my 595th blog post. I usually try to do something special for my readers on the occasion of milestone posts. Inspired by all the YouTube videos I've been watching lately, I wanted to publish a Question & Answer post for my 600th. So, please ask me questions! I will be collecting questions from blog comments, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Then, I will answer your questions in writing in the 5th post after this one. Should things go as planned, that should be the second post of June.


Plus, since my apartment tour blog post was so popular, I was thinking of doing a supplemental post. I could daydream of a wishlist of items I want for my home. Or I could draft a more serious post on how I organize my "linen" closet. Or simply dish more details on my office area, kitchen or even bathroom? Let me know if you want to know more about my home and which one piques your interest the most. Are there any other topics you wish I would discuss?

So... what would you like to know?



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Simply Pleasure Sunday: Two Movies Both with an Irish and Italian Twist

My sister and I were dogsitting last Sunday night and decided on pizza and a movie. We selected Return to Me, a romantic comedy I have seen and always loved. I really enjoyed this viewing. This movie from 2000 starts with a guy played by David Duchovny who deeply loves his wife. She dies and her heart is donated to a woman played by Minnie Driver who was not living life fully. She works in her grandfather's odd Irish-Italian restaurant. The two meet there and their courtship is so sweet. She discovers that she has his late wife's heart and tells him, disappearing immediately after so that he wouldn't be reminded of his tragedy and leaving their future up to him. This is one film I could watch many times. See it if you haven't yet or if you haven't in awhile.


At home on Tuesday evening, I spontaneously rented a movie on Amazon that I've heard good things about, Brooklyn. This romantic drama is fantastic! This is the tale of a young woman who leaves Ireland in the early 1950s for a chance of a better life in America, specifically Brooklyn, among other Irish immigrants. Even though there are negatives, overall she has a pretty good life for an immigrant. Through sponsorship, she had a place to stay, a job, and even night school in the field of her choice. She blossomed, including falling in love with an Italian guy. She has a reason to return to Ireland and goes. While there, her friends and family push an eligible bachelor at her and she falls for him too. Plus, a job in her field is thrown at her as well. There was nothing for her in her native country before, but now suddenly there is. Stuck in between two places and gentlemen, she must decide upon one. The performances are wonderful. Overall, this film is engaging and is simply well done. I highly recommend it.


All things Italian truly inspires how I live my life, so I adore movies with a culture or two emphasized. The Irish and Italian cultures in these particular movies have personal meaning. My sister received her ancestry.com DNA results and it reported that my siblings and I are 47% Irish. Of course, I am 100% Italian at heart!