Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tomorrow's Trip: Charm City

I am excited to visit Baltimore, Charm City, tomorrow with two of my girlfriends! 

the Inner Harbor

Harborplace
site of dining, shopping and entertainment

More details soon! ...plus personal photos.

Even though I've lived in a suburb of Baltimore most of my life, I just don't know the city well. It'll be nice to concentrate on and conquer a small area, simply enjoy it, without running around ragged. It will probably make me wanna return! The weather will be cloudy but then a nice 70 degrees. I love to travel in the springtime.

Saturday on Style: Princess Catherine's Dresses

As you know I adore Princess Catherine and her sense of style. I got up at 5:15 Friday to watch as much of the royal wedding as I could before having to leave for work. I was waiting to see her wedding gown!

the Prince and Princess
so happy

I can't imagine a more perfect choice! It was appropriate, flattering, classic, modern, timeless, and stunningly beautiful! Just perfect!

And I just saw the second dress today.


Even though I'm not a fan of two wedding dresses, I think this one was needed. It's very lovely too!

I love her style.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

favorite flower: dark pink azaleas







These are in front of the house I grew up in.
They usually bloom for me around my birthday, but, alas, this year they're alittle late.

I still don't think I captured their vibrant, deep pink color in these pictures... Oh well...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Italy Trip Photos

My travel partner in Italy, J, has finally returned from backpacking across Europe. He kindly sent me his pictures from our time together. Thank you J! Here are the anonymous ones...

I'm well into a scrapbook of sorts for all the prints, postcards and ticket stubs; more details to come.



Verona

the view out our hotel room window in Verona

the view if you leaned out the window and looked left, towards Piazza Erbe

the Arena, a Roman ruin still used today; used to be 50% taller with these arches

workers were building a stage inside the Arena

view of Piazza Bra from the top of the Arena



Venice

 nocturnal view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge

 Venice is known for masterful Carnival masks and Murano glass

 lunch in the piazza

 pizza margherita, so good! I forgot to take a picture before I started eating!

 Piazza San Marco with St. Mark's Basilica and Bell Tower 

 detail of the Campanile

 St. Mark's

 Doge's Palace

 detail of sculptural decoration on St. Mark's

 astrological signs on this public calendar in Piazza San Marco

 my dinner, (very much like) filet mignon with various vegetables

 fancy hot chocolate at Caffe Florian on St. Mark's Square

 the Rialto bridge from the vaporetto (waterbus)

 on the waterbus to the train station to depart, the sun finally came out!

Ca' d'Oro, I love it for the quatrefoils!

 a gondola

Want more? Check out my personal pictures from this older post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

blissfully happy birthday weekend

I headed to Philadelphia on the morning of my birthday, Friday, April 15th via train. I love departing for a trip or waking up on my birthday someplace else! I drop my (cute new $20 Target) tote bag off at L's, my friend who is also celebrating her birthday. I knew her through an Art History program. I walk in and see balloons, a 2 and 7 candle each topping a chocolate mocha chip muffin and individually wrapped bottles of nail polish. Her mom calls us with our horoscope which says we will soon have many opportunities.

Since L had to study (on her birthday, I know!), I met my old neighbor M, a loving, vivacious and social Lebanese senior citizen, at the Starbucks she named in the neighborhood called Center City. Waiting for her, I sat at the window and people-watched. Because there's such a variety of people, it was interesting. I found myself envious, I wanted to walk down the block as a local too.

After quickly catching up, we head to my favorite place, the Reading Terminal Market. The place was packed! Each stand had a long line ...and rightfully so! I savor my sinful cheesesteak from my cheesesteak place, Tommy DiNic's. And then on top, I pick up a slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting from an Amish vendor and take it to go.

We walk to a bookstore where I have L's gift, a beautiful and highly-rated Greek Islands cookbook, on hold. She loves Greece the way I love Italy. The Barnes & Noble is right across the street from lovely Rittenhouse Square. M and I enjoyed a few bites of that decadent cake. M knew a musician who played his guitar and got to know the stranger sitting next to us on a park bench.

I left the two of them to meet L at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see a couple of dowry chests from Renaissance Tuscany. They were interesting; one of the two was connected to the famous Medici family. We also bummed around the museum, which was fun with L. We really had fun with the art, especially the contemporary art. She also loved the cookbook, not owning anything like it.


view from the top of the steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
looking down Benjamin Franklin Parkway towards City Hall

The two of us went out to dinner at Parc, a fancy French restaurant. That was packed too! It had a lovely atmosphere. In fact, I can hardly wait to go to France! I ordered the French classic beef bourguignon which was delicious. It was four pieces of meat soaked in a red wine sauce on top of mashed potatoes with turnips and carrots. L and I split a side of sauteed spinach. The house merlot was also delicious, and affordable by carafe. I had profiterole as a dessert, which is puff pastry, vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. My dinner date ordered madeleines which was served with ice cream and caramel sauce.

Parc

beef bourguignon

profiterole

madeleines

we totally brought in the candles

L also ordered absinthe. It was clear and served with ice in this large glass canister on a pedestal with two silver spouts. One balances a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over their glass and then shoots the liquor over the cube, melting it. To her, it tasted like (Greek) ouzo and to me, it tasted like (Italian) weak white sambuca. It had a bit of a licorice taste, probably star anise. M met us there for a glass of wine.

 
absinthe

The three of us walked over to the bar Noche. It was a long, narrow room lined with windows on the second floor. We met a big group of L's friends there. After some socializing and drinking, we got up to dance and danced the night away. M danced with us most of the night! She was the one who got people to dance! You should have seen her! In her chocolate brown outfit and green hat, not aware she was not in her 20s. She was a big hit! I have no idea what time I left. After too many drinks (for a lightweight like me), I suppose I didn't care.

I caught a train back home the next morning with an Au Bon Pain cappuccino in hand. I didn't do very much the next afternoon as I did not feel so well after all those aforementioned drinks. By evening, it was really raining and windy. Oh well.... you know what they say, April showers bring May flowers... I saw that my hair, which I always straighten, dried into curls at the end of the evening.

My college friends J and B, B's husband N, and I went out to dinner at a nice Italian restaurant on Main Street in Annapolis. B and N gave me a bottle of the wine I drank during my study abroad experience, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo! Isn't that thoughtful? They also tied a luggage tag to the gift bag and picked out a Hallmark card. Having worked there twice, I'm a huge Hallmark snob! Anyway, it was awesome to hang out with my college friends, who are my most like-minded group of friends. And since I had such a great time in college, they are sacred to me. We ordered bruschetta for the table and then I had pasta bolognese in a cream sauce. After that, we hit a charming Irish pub for a beer.

Piccola Roma

our view of Main Street

Galway Bay Irish Pub

The next morning, I drove to Annapolis myself to buy proscuitto, mozzarella and a bottle of the wine I had on my most recent trip to Italy in Verona, Valpolicella Superiore, at the Italian Market. The Italian manager who showed me the wine I was searching for, who kept checking on me and tried to add on to my purchase told me "Some wine, some cheese, some proscuitto, that's all you need for a good time!!" Very Italian. I love it.

That afternoon my family and I created an Italian feast! My dad made meat lasagna which was truly amazing! I made a huge quantity of my vegetarian pasta specialty, which reminds me of my favorite meal on my last trip, the lunch on Piazza Erbe in Verona. My dish was penne mezze noodles, a red pepper, an orange pepper, a yellow pepper, a green pepper, cherry tomatoes and asparagus all perfectly, barely coated in a tomato sauce. I also prepared a not-so-huge portion of sauteed spinach. The leaves really do shrink down! I love having proscuitto as antipasti, which is a rare treat for me. I think everyone really loved the food, having something different and a bit of a cultural experience. I elaborated about my trip to Italy as my grandparents hadn't seen me since before I left.

Penne Primavera

My mom ordered me a birthday cake- a round devil's food cake with white buttercream frosting and pink roses! I very much love cake. I put it on top of my new clear glass cake stand I ordered online and that arrived just in time. My birthday shoes, those deep red peeptoe pumps still haven't arrived! ...oh well... My sister, who also loves to bake, baked me chocolate chip cookies from scratch, which were also put on the table. She usually doesn't bake that kind, my favorite kind of cookie. Unfortunately she couldn't attend the dinner as she works two jobs ...and at a couple locations at each job!

birthday cake!
My two old high school friends unfortunately couldn't make it to my dinner on Saturday night, but wanted to make it up to me, so I think we've decided to mark my birthday by grabbing a burger and toasting margaritas at the Hard Rock Cafe in Baltimore. And we'll wander around the Inner Harbor. They have a dining and shopping complex called Harborplace. It would be nice to indulge in a springtime shopping spree. Maybe Sunday, May 1st? We could take the convenient light rail there and back. It'll be fun!

...it was such a fabulous birthday weekend... I'm unsure if I could have asked for more!

Monday, April 18, 2011

:) personal happiness :)

LOVE sculpture in my beloved Philadelphia

I have girlfriends who are completely boy-crazy, and in their mid-twenties, obsess about marriage everyday. Often they only feel happy when they are in a relationship, sometimes settling for someone not-so-perfect just to have it. I just think that when you are truly happy alone, only then will you attract who you want! Confidence is the sexiest thing ever! Be passionate. And then you're only more fascinating to the significant other when he or she comes along! Plus, whatever you do or do not have, life's way too short not to choose to be happy everyday! Be concerned with your own personal happiness.

I am very independent-minded and have always been rather content spending most of my life as a single girl. ...knowing that this wasn't permanent though! I do very much love love and truly want a relationship with the right guy. I hope that future relationships of mine consist of two complete individuals. I do not feel incomplete without the guy. I'm not gonna let being alone be severe daily stress. Stress seriously stops brain function and ages you! Not very attractive! Alittle stress and acting a teeny bit crazy is part of falling for someone though, that's okay! At least I pray it is for an analytical dorky gal like me!

I just came across this entry on the blog entitled "la mia vita" which in Italian is "my life." She is so much more poetic about the subject than me! Definitely check it out:

Life is too beautiful and too short



On the note of personal happiness, I promise I will update all about my blissfully happy birthday weekend soon!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I get to because it's (nearly) my birthday.

What would I want if I could have anything for my birthday?
(any material possession for that matter)





I've wanted a more simple metal bed for awhile!
And this particular one's been on my Amazon Wish List for a couple of years.
It would go with the hardware of my other furniture. 
I won't be making the purchase at my birthday but maybe during my 27th year?

Of course I feel incrediblyincredibly lucky
to have gone to Italy just weeks ago, 
showed J around there,
spend my birthday in Philadelphia, 
and be surrounded by friends and family over the course of three lovely dinners.

...a girl can dream though...

...about these too!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

***birthday shoes***

Jessica Simpson Shoes, Kendale Pumps
Available at Macy's and Nordstrom's

*to be my birthday shoes*

topped with a gift bow, perfect for a birthday, right?!

you know I love the deep red!

I tried my size in black and they fit ...and look hot! Just gotta hunt them down by my birthday... As they don't seem to be available in any stores nearby, I'll probably buy them online at Nordstrom's.  Hopefully Friday when I truly have the $$$. Hopefully I'll have them in time!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

***birthday plans***

When I visit Philadelphia to meet up with my friend L so we can celebrate our April 15th birthdays and 27th years, we will go out to dinner. We love trying out different cuisines. Since she chose sushi last year and it wasn't my favorite try, it's my choice this year. ...and I've picked Parc and its fancy French fare. This French brasserie sits on lovely Rittenhouse Square.


This is actually my second time dining at a French Restaurant. I helped my friend J celebrate her graduate program graduation with her family at one in Maryland a few years ago. I believe I ordered chicken, with maybe a mustard sauce? I know I have many Francophiles in my audience. What should I have this time around, you guys? I was thinking something classicly French like Coq Au Vin or Beef Bourguignon...

I hope we have a big crowd! The more, the merrier! I still know a couple more people in Philly, as well as having new friends in New Jersey. L and I want to go for drinks afterwards, probably at nearby NoChe, which more than being a bar, serves "gourmet pizzas and pub fare." The ambience of this second story place seems cool.

The next night I'll have returned home and will be going out with friends to the Italian restaurant Piccola Roma in historic Annapolis. I hope to collect a big group of friends at a charming bar called Galway Bay Irish Pub and then walk down the street to the restaurant. I can't wait to spend time with these fantastic friends of mine, many of whom I don't happen to hang out with too often. A mix of high school, college and since school friends, they haven't all met one another.

The following afternoon/ evening I will be helping to prepare my "Italian Feast" shared with my immediate family members and maternal grandparents. It will be adapted to my family's American tastes. I'm going to shop at The Italian Market for wine, proscuitto, an Italian cheese, bread, maybe olive oil for dipping bread, maybe more! The menu below is fairly simple for my family of big-eaters!

The menu will be:
Antipasti:
-garden salad
-good Italian bread with olive oil
-an Italian cheese like mozzarella or something
-sharp cheddar cheese
-proscuitto
Main Course or Primo Piatto:
-my specialty: penne pasta and tomato basil sauce with red pepper, yellow pepper and asparagus
-meat lasagna
Side or Contorno:
-sauteed spinach
Dessert or Dolce:
-devil's food cake with buttercream frosting and dark pink roses
(I know... not very Italian, but very Michelle. I'm looking forward to my cake!)
Wine or Vino:
-plenty! especially red!

A perfectly cultural birthday with friends and family! Plus a trip thrown in. I love it!

One to dress up for dinner, I gotta figure out what to wear those three times!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday on Travel: DC's Cherry Blossom Festival

My friend E and I attended the Cherry Blossom Festival Sunday as a birthday gift to each other. Her birthday is mid-February and mine's mid-April so it's nice that this festival we love falls in between.

Cherry Blossoms Up Close

Cherry Blossoms and the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin 

She picked me up and drove us to a Metro station and then we took a couple different lines of subway to get to Union Station's Au Bon Pain for delicious coffee and pastry.  Once caffeinated, we hit the Freer Gallery for some Asian Art. We liked the more detailed Japanese scroll paintings best.

After that, we visited the Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals exhibition at the National Gallery. It was a collection of vedute, which were painted views of my Venice. These were the ultimate souvenirs during the time of the Grand Tour; think 1700s or so... I now love Canaletto! Especially his sharper mature style. I loved telling E where everything was. Some of the artists adored depicting Ascension Day, which is about 40 days after Easter. Venice is symbolically married to the sea on this religious day. The ruler of Venice, the Doge, dropped a ring into the sea from a huge golden boat called a bucintoro back in the 18th Century. There's also a gondola in front of the East Building exhibition space. As for the rest of the museum, we pretty much made a bee line for Ginevra de' Benci, the only portrait of Leonardo's in the Americas, who also graces the cover of the museum map.

After hanging out with Ginevra, we went out to lunch. We decided on the brewery on top of the Postal Museum, next to Union Station. My burger and fries with a beer was so perfect.

Finally we joined the crowds at the Cherry Blossoms which are stunningly beautiful. It was a nice walk... We walked further for a non-blocked-off subway station. Not very hungry, we had a big, warm chocolate chip cookie each for dessert and then left DC. With an early start and a late finish, it was a 13 hour day! E is a great travel partner though. She was listing the plethora of places in DC we have yet to see, already planning our next trip to the nation's capital. When it's warmer as we didn't expect the wind this time!

Cherry Trees and Crowds


Friday, April 1, 2011

a good week in friendship!

Gossip Girl

I received a text out of the blue from a former associate of mine on Monday and met him for dinner on Tuesday. He didn't know I wasn't at the workplace we had in common anymore, so we had a lot to catch up on. (At a local place we love! Yay for Half Price Dinner Pasta Tuesday! I <3 their "Voodoo Pasta.")

On Wednesday night I called an old college friend who I only speak with every few months and we gabbed for something like two hours, which was really fun. I would love to visit her in New England or meet up with her in New York...

I just hung up with another college friend who's also a local friend I unfortunately hardly ever hang out with... I'm determined for that to change! She could only afford 15 minutes, but it was still great to catch up a bit.

I also confirmed a friend request from yet another old college friend on facebook and sent him a message.

And of course I've been in contact with other friends lately in making travel itineraries and birthday plans. ...and will only to continue to do so. Must call my old Philly neighbors.

So, my advice (I know, the second advice post in a row!) is to just pick up the phone and call or text to connect with someone you've been meaning to!