Sunday, December 28, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Watching a Movie at Home

My Dell Mini was seven years old and really slowing down, taking a long time to load a webpage. It would be incredibly cranky too. "The Blue Screen of Death" appeared more and more frequently, with troubling text such as "Dumping physical memory." I would restart my computer and it always resurrected itself. Luckily, my parents gave me a laptop for Christmas before it completely died. The screen also featured white spots from accidental water damage. I had purchased a cheap no-name external hard drive in order to play DVDs once but it failed to function.

I set up my new Toshiba laptop this evening and am using it to create this post. It's nice. I also installed the external hard drive they gave me and have selected Midnight in Paris from my small collection of ten DVDs to view first, immediately after I click "Publish." I love this movie.


I look forward to watching movies, especially during winter when the days are cold and the nights are long. I already stocked microwave popcorn in my kitchen cabinet. Any film recommendations are welcome.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A note from Santa...

I find a letter from "Santa" accompanying a lovely gift at my office door every Christmas. Read the poem I received last year here.


Dear Michelle,

I know that year twenty-fourteen
Is one like you've never seen,
I know it has had many ups and a down
And often felt like a merry-go-round.

One "up" was E [his first name here] you dated and befriended
That relationship was fun and hopefully hasn't ended.

Another "up" was your birthday trip
(Even though, I know your savings took a dip.)
But, in your mind -- and heart, experiences stay
You'll always remember croissants at the cafe'
And the art of Monet.

Start to put a little money away
Start it now; don't delay.
A whole year away can be your next vacation
Half the fun is the anticipation.

Michael's accident was a "down"
The result of a bad trip to town
A core value was exposed
Your depth of caring showed.

Another "down" was your employment hunt
No openings on the job front.
But, Michelle, this I can guarantee
Things turned out just as they should be.

This year, the time wasn't right
So for next year, set you sight
Set those goals
Grab the controls.

There's many an exciting place
And there isn't any race
So, take your time and investigate
Find a job to which you can relate.

If things work out with your new friend
That will be great; If not, it's not the end!

In twenty-fifteen,
Transition is your theme
Focus on the excitement -- everything new
So much to see, so much to do

So many jobs to explore
So many chances to open a new door
So many new places to eat.
So many new people to meet.

It's time for me to get in my sleigh,
Christmas is approaching, I can't delay.

All the kindness you do
Will come back to you,
Your Santa does pray,
In a wonderful, unexpected way.

As always, I'll watch over you
Holding you safe in all you do.
Make 2015
A year supreme!

Love,
Santa



Book Review: At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life


This review of the wonderful book At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott of the blog The Daily Connoisseur is a long time coming. I pre-ordered the book, so I received it months ago, in October and devoured it right away. I actually read it twice and have revisited parts many other times. Pleased to have my own print copy on my bookshelf, I plan to revisit this incredible resource for a tip, recipe or music recommendation in the future.

This is the author's second book. Her first is entitled Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, which I have not formally reviewed on this blog, but highly recommend and seem to mention here often.

This follow up examines the art of homemaking. It is a guide on how to become chic in daily life, particularly at home. The author advocates that this is entirely possible on any budget.

If you follow my blog, there's a big chance that you value the Italian and/or French lifestyle. A francophile may be wondering if this particular book offers anything new, something different. It does. Trust me as I am an avid read of blogs, books and articles on the French lifestyle. The tips that Jennifer offers are invaluable. This is a life-changing read.

Her book is divided into two sections. The first is basically how to get your home in order. The second (my favorite) suggests how to manage your day, further organized by morning, afternoon and evening.

Her tips for managing your home and life well are good. Furthermore, she explains how to make these routines pleasurable, down to candle scents and background music! Every moment, even a few minutes spent accomplishing the mundane activity of cleaning something, has the potential to be a celebration of life. She reminds us to be present. Life is too short not to be thoroughly enjoyed.

What I really took from this book was that a major attitude adjustment is needed in everyday life in order to become a true domestic goddess. I truly believe that life is what you make it. Having the right attitude is crucial. If you are determined to enjoy every moment and at least calmly take a difficulty one step at a time, then you very well might live life to the fullest.

The Motivated Type via Pinterest

This book has changed my life already. I have adopted many little habits. It installed her words in my head so I am reminded to put things away as soon as I am finished with them. In fact, I think of her every morning when I put my sugar canister and pot holder away immediately after sweetening my two little cups of espresso freshly brewed in a stovetop Moka. Also, even though it took time to develop the habit, I usually seat myself at my dining room table to enjoy my breakfast. I may still shoot back my espresso while standing at my kitchen counter, but leaning over my coffee table and lounging on the sofa like I used to would feel very odd now. I remember how she often times herself in doing a dreaded chore, and after setting the timer myself once or twice, I now realize that my chores take very little time to accomplish. Washing dishes, for example, is not my favorite task, but I know that half a sink full of dishes takes about three minutes to empty. Knowing this, I now hardly ever leave any dishes dirty for long. In addition, I dust my wood furniture with Pledge more often since I know that doing my whole apartment home would require 20 minutes. Dusting my entire living room including my office area plus my dining room table takes half that time. If I prepare a whole box of pasta at once, rather than a portion, lessening my tasks for future weekday nights, then that means her voice inspires me yet again. 

One of her product recommendations was epicuren's Volcanic Clay Purifying Mask which I love and find truly effective. In fact, I just started using my second tube. (It is available on Amazon.)


I think I will revisit this guide for a few more tips. For one, I'll probably check out an album she specifically recommends or at least search for a different kind of music station on Pandora. In addition, now that I have grown out my long layers and finally achieved a bob, I'm trying to grow my hair just long enough to style a sophisticated updo for special occasions. I think I also might try a chignon for which Jennifer provides step-by-step directions.

I highly recommend At Home with Madame Chic. You may want to read it before year end so that 2015 can be trรจs chic.



I plan to publish this at midnight turning into Christmas Eve, so I hope you have a very merry Christmas! My family is actually serving lasagna on Christmas Day instead of the traditional ham so you know I'm psyched!



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Links I Love: Christmas 2014

South Philly
Conrad Benner for Visit Philadelphia via facebook.com/visitphilly

* 10 things you should know before celebrating Christmas in Germany [dw.de via facebook.com/ glitterandbow]
* my favorite Christmas ornament... [cestmoisaralouise.com]
* Countdown to Christmas- Italian Style! December 11 [theveniceexperience.blogspot.com]
* What do the Bolognesi eat at Christmas? [bolognawithlove.com]
* 20 Traditional Christmas Dishes From All Around Italy [huffingtonpost.com via facebook.com/ GirlinFlorence]
* An Insider's Guide to Enjoying NYC During the Holidays [thesimplyluxuriouslife.com]
* The Holiday Kitchen: Must Haves from Sur La Table & Nespresso [elementsofstyleblog.com]



Happy Holidays!
Merry Christmas! Buon Natale!



Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter 2014-2015 Capsule Wardrobe


Since today is the first day of winter, I wanted to share what I plan to wear this season.

15-Item Wardrobe for Winter 2014-2015:

1. white 3/4 sleeve shirt from New York & Company Outlet

2. white pintucked long sleeve shirt from Ann Taylor

3. white long sleeve Essential Shirt from The Limited

4. black long sleeve Essential Shirt from The Limited

5. black jersey cross-over 3/4-sleeve top from Boden

6. black cross-over long sleeve sweater from Ann Taylor Factory Store

7. new black v-neck long sleeve sweater by Mossimo from Target

8. new black crew-neck long sleeve sweater by Mossimo from Target

9. red cross-over long sleeve sweater from The Limited

10. dark gray scoop-neck sparkly sweater with keyhole cut-out in the back from Ann Taylor

11. dark gray pants from Ann Taylor Factory Store*

12. black curvy trouser from Ann Taylor Factory Store**

13. black straight leg classic pants by Merona from Target*

14. dark blue Petite Modern Boot Cut Jeans from Ann Taylor*

15. dark blue curvy bootcut jeans from Ann Taylor Factory Store**

* to pair with flats
** to pair with heels

That's five shirts or tops, five sweaters, and five pairs of pants or jeans, for a total of 15 core items. Even though I would love to get down to a "10-item wardrobe" a la Jennifer of The Daily Connoisseur, I think 15 may be my smallest wardrobe size of any season. "Focus on fifteen" is what Shannon Ables advocates in her new book (for both fall and winter), Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide. [This is what I am currently reading.] I also think this is dressing appropriately for the cold Maryland winter.

The only new core items purchased this season are a couple of much-needed sweaters. I'm in my 30s now, trying to be sophisticated, and so I desire ones in luxurious cashmere, like this one from Ann Taylor, but those simply were not in the budget while preparing for the season. Maybe that one will be deeply discounted the day after Christmas or during January... Anyway, I'm satisfied with the affordable ones I picked up from Target. I feel that these two new items are completely classic.


I need to replace the pair of jeans that I wear with heels as they are too big.



Extras:

I know that the vast majority of my capsule wardrobe is black and white, so the accessories and such will add the necessary pops of "color, pattern, texture, and shine" (I can still hear Stacy and Clinton (of TLC's What Not To Wear) say that four words!).

-Special Occasion Wear:

1. new black petite beaded scalloped lace over ivory pencil skirt from Ann Taylor


2. new black petite Sequin Pencil Skirt from The Limited


3. burgundy sweater with black lace top and short sleeves from Ann Taylor

4. black lace boat-neck knee-length dress with long sheer sleeves and ribbon at waist from The Limited

5. black jersey long sleeve faux-wrap knee-length dress with pin by American Living from JCPenney

I anticipate wearing my new "holiday skirts." I plan to dress in the lovely beaded lace one to dinner on Christmas Day and then the fun sequined number on New Year's Eve.

-Tees:

1. black-striped white boat-neck long sleeve nautical tee from Sweden Collection by Chance

2. black-striped white crew-neck long sleeve tee from LOFT

3. dark pink boat-neck 3/4-sleeve slubbed cotton tee from LOFT Outlet

4. burgundy boat-neck 3/4-sleeve slubbed cotton tee with button detail from LOFT

5. purple cross-over 3/4-sleeve tee by Merona from Target

6. navy cross-over 3/4-sleeve tee by Merona from Target

7. white striped dark gray boat-neck 3/4-sleeve nautical tee from H&M

8. medium gray boat-neck 3/4-sleeve slubbed cotton tee from LOFT Outlet

9. dark gray v-neck long sleeve tee by L.O.G.G. from H&M

10. black scoop-neck short sleeve tee from Ann Taylor Factory Store

11. ivory polka-dotted black henley-style long sleeve tee with button and ruffle details from LOFT

12. black scoop-neck long sleeve tee with ribbed neckline from Express

13. black v-neck long sleeve tee by L.O.G.G from H&M

-Camisoles:

1-5. 5 white (4 Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's and 1 from LOFT)

6. lacy silk cream from White House Black Market

7-8. 2 pink (1 Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's and 1 from LOFT)

9. red from LOFT

10. white polka-dotted black with lace trim from White House Black Market

11. black with lace trim from Ann Taylor Factory Store

12-13. 2 black (1 Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's and 1 from LOFT)

14. lacy silky black from White House Black Market

-Crew-neck 3/4-sleeve Cardigans:

1. black by Cherokee from Target

2. ivory from New York & Company

3. dark pink azalea from LOFT Outlet

4. black featherweight cashmere from J.Crew

The cashmere cardigan works well over sleeveless dresses and camisoles as it is pretty fitted in the sleeves and short in the torso. It is for dressing up for dates rather than for everyday. I'll own a roomier one for daily use someday...

-Scarves including bright warm colors

10 is low for me. My collection has been recently decluttered.



-Black Single-breasted Trench-style Wool Coat by JLo from Burlington Coat Factory and black gloves

-Belts

1. black skinny patent leather bow from White House Black Market

2. black/dark brown reversible from Target

3. black wide braided leather from The Limited

-Handbags, Totes, Clutches

I've been carrying my black leather tote from Nine West Outlet everyday lately, but may switch to my dark pink patent leather one by Coach soon. I usually select my black and white striped tote from Target before heading to Target or the grocery store in order to carry purchases back home.

-Jewelry

I at least wear a pair of earrings and my only watch by Anne Klein everyday. Usually, the earrings are large round cubic zirconia studs. I have recently decluttered my collection of earrings and now own only 17 pairs.

-2 Pairs of Sunglasses (brown and black)

-Bras, Panties, Pantyhose, Tights, Black Socks, 1 Pair Dark Brown Socks, Old Black Trouser Socks, 3 new Black Knee-high Trouser Socks by Merona, 6 new White Ankle Socks by Hanes

2 new packs of socks picked up at Target recently.

-Closed-toe Shoes including ballet flats, heeled boots, one pair of black pumps, and one pair of sneakers

I do not own a pair of flat boots; this is a major hole. I want this pair of nude ballet flats in "blush" (but it has been sold out of size 9 both in my store and online for months!). Plus, I still hope to make a pair of nude pumps mine. Those nude shoe options are more ideal for spring anyway. My white sneakers with dark pink stripes are not exactly white anymore, but mostly blue from all those dark wash jeans I adore. I plan to purchase (a darker pair of) sneakers prior to my next international trip (whenever that will be!).

-Pajamas including new ivory-dotted pale green flannel pants by Gilligan & O'Malley from Target



Black, white and warm colors usually made the cut for my closet this winter. Fitting since I enjoy decorating my home with red and white at Christmastime. Limited color ensures that any piece goes with everything else, creating so many different outfits.

My intention was to have a friend take pictures of me modeling a few outfits, but, unfortunately, I failed to make that happen. Perhaps I will for another post. Or at least snap a selfie on Christmas Day.

I hope you enjoyed a peak into my closet this season! Do you have a capsule wardrobe too? What piece can you hardly wait to wear this holiday season?



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: theSkimm

cappuccino and chocolate croissant at my favorite coffee shop with a Kindle book back in August

Instead of reading the newspaper at breakfast, I grab my phone and skimm. theSkimm is a service that emails you a text summary of the latest news early each morning Monday through Friday. Since I do not own a TV at the moment, this is invaluable to me. With my last phone I ditched right before my April trip to Paris, I used a news app. Each category had a tab and more often than not, I clicked on the "entertainment" section rather than actual news. Unfortunately, I became more well-versed in Kim Kardashian's life than world events. I believe it is important to know something about what's going on in order to be an informed participant in politics. So, I am happy to have found theSkimm. The authors write a short email covering domestic and international events, without any imagery. It is conversational in tone and actually explains the situation, key players and/or past history. Not completely unbiased, the authors usually end a paragraph with a funny little comment. It is set up to enable the reader to be an informed participant in real life conversations. Of course, it's social, so you can share any part of the email or the entire service on facebook and twitter.

There is a particular format each email follows. First, the subject line is some quirky little quip. Under the date, the authors briefly write a line about what they were doing while they drafted the text, which is usually linked to an event of the past day. Below this, there's a quote set in its context. There are one or two top stories next. After that, there are smaller summaries of several other stories. Towards the bottom, there's a new vocabulary term defined or possibly a book or film recommendation. Then, they usually advertise a company's giveaway. They promote themselves, but they also show appreciation and recognize Skimm'rs who spread the word and finally list subscriber's names and cities when it's his/her birthday. Many of the sections contain a link for more information.

This isn't as pleasurable as savoring a dark chocolate truffle, but I do look forward to reading it each weekday morning. I usually read it while sipping my two little cups of espresso and eating one of the pieces of the item I baked for breakfast for the week. After reading the short yet sweet email, I feel like I basically know what's going on and not left out of conversations because I knew about it before someone brought it up. I highly recommend it. To learn more: http://www.theskimm.com/



Edit: Today, December 17th is National Skimm Day. To subscribe, click here--> theSkimm.



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Hot Chocolate from Starbucks


I love sipping hot chocolate on a cold day of winter. Today, I'm enjoying my first cup of the season. I picked it up at the Starbucks inside my Target this morning. Happy I chose the larger grande size, it was rich and delicious. It is especially important to pause and savor a simple pleasure during a hectic holiday season.




Saturday, December 6, 2014

New Recipe #3: The Cooking Continues: Cake Mix Coffee Cake


Ideally, I'd like to have homemade coffee cake as one of my options to serve when entertaining on a small scale. I think it'd be nice to accompany coffee or tea. Usually, I just keep Milano cookies around. So, in my attempt to step it up, I definitely installed a coffee cake recipe on my list of things to try (which you can read about here). I made it on Friday night.

This recipe from Favorite Family Recipes piqued my interest because it would be easier using a cake mix. Instead of following the package directions, the author adds different ingredients. Also, Erica instructs how to prepare the topping. She insists upon this dish's versatility, and in my attempt, I actually did not include the chopped walnuts even though I had them on hand, leftover from making chocolate walnut fudge for Thanksgiving. I didn't mix the topping into the batter, only laying it on top, like in this image...


Anyway, the coffee cake tastes decent, but I don't like how the finished product looks. Instead of tweaking this particular recipe, I think I'll search for another and try that. The cake was incredibly moist, but didn't rise well under the weight of the topping. Even though the toothpick came out clean, perhaps it wasn't completely done... I'm unsure.


I did get some of the topping crumbly/clumpy while stirring in the bowl, but since most of it was not, I continued to work it and it lost its form. So, I added more butter (that had not been softened by sitting out a few hours since I didn't anticipate using it, but I did briefly zap it in the microwave) which only helped a bit.


Hot out of the oven, the topping looked very wet. I try to make everything beautiful and this first attempt at coffee cake simply didn't work out. I'll do better next time.


I had fun trying something new as well as singing and dancing along to The Beatles playing from my phone. Kitchens are made for dancing too.

Any recipe suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I feel like every domestic goddess needs a coffee cake!



Monday, December 1, 2014

New Recipe #2: Behold! The Brookie. Plus, A Cooking Commitment

I pinned this delicious-looking dessert long ago. Allow me to introduce you to the brookie, as in 'brownie-cookie,' a brownie and chocolate chip cookie combination that is baked in a muffin pan...


I finally tried these, which are also known as brooksters, last Monday and they turned out pretty well! They tasted delicious, as you can imagine! Right out of the oven or a leftover microwaved for nine seconds, the chocolate chips are just melted. In order to perfect their presentation, there are a few things I would do differently the next time. I didn't have a really great baking time, so I kept opening the oven door and checking on them, and as a result, they fell a bit in the middle. Think a long time like 30 minutes or so. I will also add a little less brownie batter and cookie dough the second time around. My first time, I filled each muffin pan cup halfway with brownie batter and measured leveled-off a ice cream scoop-full of cookie dough and then rolled that into a ball. In addition, I will not use muffin liners as the brownie suck to the paper a bit. Instead, I will grease the muffin pan. 



I made 12 brookies with a bit of cookie dough left over. Since I want to make them smaller next time, I imagine that I would have a few more brookies. Brownie batter is one of the best things to eat in existence however. Come to think of it, chocolate chip cookie dough isn't bad either. Save room for the absolutely scrumptious finished product though!



Michelle's Brookies

Ingredients 

Betty Crocker Supreme Brownie Mix Original with Hershey's Chocolate Syrup Pouch
1/4 c. water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 egg

Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
1 stick (1/2 c. butter)
1 egg

Cooking spray, if desired

Instructions

1. Preheat oven between 325 and 350 degrees

2. Place a muffin liner in each cup or grease pan

3. Prepare brownie batter using package directions

4. Prepare cookie dough using package directions



5. Fill each lined or greased muffin pan cup a bit less than halfway with brownie batter

6. Bake brownies for ten minutes. Meanwhile, roll small cookie balls of equal size; think like a barely heaping tablespoon size.

7. Take brownies out and place a ball in each cup, pressing down a bit, so the brownie batter surrounds the dough



8. Bake for at least 30 minutes, checking to see if they look done at 30 minutes, adding time if needed

9. Cool for a bit and serve while still warm

Enjoy!




As soon as I tasted one, I called my mother and insisted that she come over immediately, having told her that I wanted to try making them the previous evening. Plus, I know she's a big fan of my chocolate chip cookies, especially when right out of the oven. Anyway, we settled on plans for making them as one of the desserts for our family feast on Christmas Day. I sent her home with another, plus one for my father and brother. I also shared one with each of my team of three co-workers. Everyone had rave reviews.



Usually, I like classic or quintessential things. I prefer to be known for the ultimate of something, made in the traditional way, rather than trying a twist or adding a secret ingredient to make it my own. The perfect chocolate chip cookie, for example. Sometimes, people might think that's plain or boring, but I like being famous for making a crowd-pleaser, something everyone loves, well. The ordinary made extraordinary by being the best ever tasted. Heck, even though the idea of maintaining an air of mystery appeals to me, I am much too honest and helpful to be secretive! But, I make an exception for these. Brownie and chocolate chip cookie are a match made in heaven for me! I hope that I have sufficiently conveyed their sheer awesomeness and you go and make them yourselves, my dear readers.



I used to bake recipes from scratch often throughout high school. Then, in college, it was easier and perhaps cheaper to bake from a mix in the shared hall kitchen of the dorm. This month, I've been out of college for eight years and haven't stopped using these shortcuts yet. I yearn to bake chocolate chip cookies from scratch again. Plus, I want to branch out and cook, bake and prepare recipes I have yet to attempt. More than pasta. So, I've decided to prepare 50 new recipes through the end of 2015. I am counting the two dishes I made recently, the beef and broccoli as well as these brookies. I edited my Pinterest Recipes to Try board, leaving only the other 48 intended recipes. Although, I do own a few cookbooks to rely on as well.

I am excited as there are many recipes I've included that I've been meaning to try forever. Like tomato sauce from scratch! Breakfast items too such as french toast, frittata, chocolate chip pancakes, and cranberry scones. There are a few French foods listed, such as beef bourguignon, ratatouille, flourless chocolate cake, and madeleines. I would not leave more Italian cuisine off this list including but not limited to traditional lasagna (rather than the Italian-American version we know), penne arrabbiattarisotto, and tiramisu. Having tried my hand at Chinese, I figured I would try another culture, a Mexican/Latin American dish, carne asada, which I think would go with my summertime blood orange margaritas! Honestly, this is marinated and sliced flank steak, so it is similar to the way you prepare the beef in beef and broccoli. Since I want to use the cute little crock pot my parents gave me, I kept a couple of slow cooker recipes such as minestrone soup and beef stew. Of course, with my sweet tooth, there are many desserts or parts of them like frosting. I adore coconut cake, for example. What else? Isn't this a thing of beauty?! I will share about them, so look for posts over the next 13 months.

Confetti Cake
Style Me Pretty via Pinterest



Sunday, November 30, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Watching "Home Alone"


It is my personal tradition to watch the movie Home Alone when decorating my little four foot tall Christmas tree. I rented the cheap SD version on my Kindle the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving, which is a bit early, but I need a little holiday magic this year.

I love this movie and thoroughly enjoy viewing it at least once a year. Released in 1990, it was one I grew up with. I probably mimicked Kevin McCallister hundreds of times when he patted his cheeks with aftershave and screamed from the sting of its alcohol content. As a quiet child, I imagine little to no sound came from my lips however.

I love Christmas trees with all their special ornaments too. My tree turned out well. Check it out...



May your days be merry and bright!



Monday, November 17, 2014

New Recipe #1: Beef and Broccoli


Even though I pretty much always order beef and broccoli when offered Chinese food, I haven't tried to prepare it at home until yesterday evening. I'm pleased to report that it turned out!


It would have been easier to have settled upon a single recipe to follow, but I created my own version, combining my two favorites found on Pinterest. One I loved for its simplicity (i.e. fewer ingredients make it far easier on my wallet) as well as its pretty pictures that showed each step. The other was more complicated (with not only a plethora of ingredients but a preferred brand for one of them) but shared secrets on how to achieve excellent flavor and provided better text instructions. I am thankful for finding both. I hope my own recipe is a happy medium. It looked like it should and tasted delicious!


Michelle's Beef and Broccoli over White Rice

Ingredients

Over 1 lb. flank steak sliced thin against the grain and then cut into shorter lengths

Beef Marinade
1/2  tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
3 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Sauce
5 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp. brown sugar*
2 tsp. cornstarch
5 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. vegetable oil

2 heads broccoli, crowns only, cut smaller
1/4 c. water

rice
water, one part rice for one part water

Instructions

1. Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. 

2. Cut steak and then add to bowl, tossing until coated thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour. I finished slicing the steak, tossing in the marinade, and covering the bowl around 1:30 PM. I started preparing dinner early, I suppose around 5:30, so it had four hours to marinate.

3. Later, in a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients together.

4. Mince a clove of garlic and pour a teaspoon of vegetable oil into another small bowl or dish.

5. Break up heads of broccoli and then cut into smaller pieces.

6. Pour a bit of vegetable oil in a pan and place over high heat. When a piece of beef hits the pan and sizzles, put half the meat into the pan, making sure it's a pretty even layer. Cook for a minute. I set a timer. Flip meat over and stir it around continuing cooking for a minute and a half. The meat will just be browned and not really pink any longer. Transfer the cooked meat to a plate or bowl. 

7. Repeat for the second half/batch of meat.

8. Add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan over high heat again. This time, add the broccoli and cook for half a minute. Add the water, cover with a lid and turn the burner knob to medium. Wait two minutes.

9. Push the broccoli towards the sides creating a hole in the middle. Scrape the oil with minced garlic into the center and allow it to cook for a half a minute. Then, mix all the ingredients in the pan together. 

10. Add all the beef to the very full pan and carefully stir. Scoop the sauce on top and then stir everything again with care. Cook for a couple more minutes. Cover.

11. Make white rice according to number of servings needed and package instructions. 

12. Spread cooked rice into a bed on the serving plate or bowl and then top with spoonfuls of beef and broccoli. 



Buon Appetito!

*I will try 1 or 1-1/2 tablespoon(s) of brown sugar in the future since I'm not balancing hot flavors with its sweetness. Plus, I don't like very sweet meat. Live and learn.

I am so happy that I tried this! It was worth the splurge. As you know, pasta and vegetables cost significantly less than meat and vegetables, so my grocery bill was higher than usual. Luckily, my last paycheck contained a bonus. Plus, I bought those three bottles of Chinese condiments, at least I have them in the fridge and pantry now. What I prepared will last me a few meals plus I stored a bit of steak in the freezer. It's nice to have a dish that's not Italian or American come out of my kitchen. Something different. However, I'll still be ordering beef and broccoli takeout or dining in a Chinese restaurant as I would miss the fried rice and fortune cookies! ...including in Philadelphia's Chinatown!

I also believe this is a great recipe with an assistant! Ideal to cook it with someone. The prep work of slicing all that meat thinly and then marinating can be accomplished alone. But then, bringing everything together later, instead of waiting around, I was constantly attending something, each step only taking on average a minute, and as a result, my kitchen was messy. As you can imagine, nearly every bottle dripped down its side. I also left making the rice until the last minute, which was fine since it cooks so quickly. I was busy but bringing everything together was done quickly. I needed a trial run, but for all subsequent times, I think it would be more efficient with an extra set of hands and more fun with two.




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Chocolate Marquis, Again! Plus a Weekend Update

I've written about this before [here], my favorite dessert, the Chocolate Marquis, from the fantastic bakery, Cakes and Confections, located a couple of towns away, in Severna Park, Maryland.


Since fall follows my peak season at work as a leasing professional at an apartment community and I work so hard, adjusting to a slower pace takes time. So, I managed to stay busy and scored a couple of deals for our residents just because. One is a coupon with multiple offers from this bakery. When I picked up the 200 coupons plus stacks of brochures/menus on  Wednesday, my coworker and I selected a couple slices of coconut cake and a few chocolate-filled mini cakes to share with our team of four. They raved about them! I got to try a taste of all of these selections. It was an amazing work day!

I also brought home a Chocolate Marquis mini cake just for myself. I savored it that evening. This little cake features alternating thick layers of chocolate mousse and thin layers of chocolate cake. It is covered in chocolate ganache and decorated with more chocolate mousse plus chocolate curls on top! It was delicious...

A little smushed from the ride home, but still scrumptious.





I am looking forward to my plans for my Sunday-Monday weekend. This afternoon, I visit my friend and neighbor M who has been living at a rehabilitation center for the past month. And staying at a couple of hospitals before that. I haven't seen him in like six weeks and I miss him. I am so grateful that his next door neighbor is taking me.

After that, I plan on preparing beef and broccoli for the first time. I bought the ingredients this morning. If it is successful then I will post all about it. I imagine it would be since it is a simple dish.

I am part of a surprise tomorrow evening. I love surprises! Details to come.



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Style Saturday: Edits to My Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

I have pretty much stuck with the limited number of pieces in my Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe with a few exceptions. Overall, the curated collection has proven its success.

I lost some weight during September and because I kept it off for awhile, I bought two pairs of pants and acquired a pair of jeans that fit during October and November. It was nice to replace bottoms that were pretty loose at the waist and possibly too much in the thigh for the particular style. My pair of black trousers didn't have any belt loops to help keep them up! Not so chic and a bit unprofessional.

I bought two pairs of black pants from Target. One is a pair of straight leg pants in Classic Fit by Merona. Usually opting for trousers so the line of the silhouette pretty much drops down from the wide part of the hip, I haven't had the classic 'straight leg' cut in a long while. It is nice to have a change with its tighter fit. The curve of my hip is embraced, but I like the straight, even cut of the thigh all the way down the calf to the hem. It's still flattering. I also like the side slit pockets. These are in regular rotation to wear to work. These replaced my black trousers by Alfani from Macy's that I think I bought last January and plan to donate.

After seeing all the lovely ways to style a pair of black ankle pants on Pinterest, I tried another pair and am much more pleased with this one over my last attempt picked up at New York & Company that didn't even make the cut for this autumn's wardrobe. I selected the black ankle pants in Modern Fit by Mossimo. These are a very slim cut so they certainly show off my curves. I am impressed with their weight/texture. For a date with E on a cold night, I styled these with my black and white striped long-sleeve tee by Chance (over a white camisole) and black pumps. Adding a khaki trench and a bright dark pink scarf when out and about. I felt stylish yet classic. Anyway, these were an addition to my closet, making my fall wardrobe total 17 items. I am happy with both pairs of pants from Target, so glad that they were affordable as well!

Exhibit A. Pinterest

E completely spoiled me and bought me my last replacement, a pair of Petite Modern Boot Cut Jeans in Lazare Wash by Ann Taylor. The petite length is perfect for me to wear with ballet flats (which is a signature shoe for me). No required trip to my trusted tailor! I have been living in these after 5 almost every work day as well as a bit on the weekends. Even though they have had a lot of use, they only stretch a tiny bit days after washing, but not too much. This amount of stretch is perfect, the pants remain very fitted but not tight. It's nice that they are no longer as slightly tight as they originally were in the fitting room. I adore the unfaded dark wash which is more polished for an everyday look and dressier than my lighter version of Levi's from JCPenney that I took out of my closet and placed in my donation box. I really love them.

Style Hunter by Essie
with new blue jeans backdrop

I still need to purchase a pair of regular length bootcut blue jeans to style with heels. The denim I own from Ann Taylor Factory Store are, again, big on me at the waist and in the thigh. In fact, I can grab a lot of fabric mid-thigh. The regular version of my petite purchase were way too long and I would have had to pour money into them to have them hemmed. I might not even like the look of the hem on denim anyway. Hopefully I can find a new pair and work them into the budget soon!

If I hadn't had that weight loss and kept it off for a month, then I would not have had these updates. I am still the same number size since different stores size differently, plus it probably changes over time, but that's okay! Since I needed to replace these items, I am happy for the change and that they look so great!

***Edit***
I forgot that I bought a new pair of black ballet flats with a black patent cap toe early on in the season. These are my work shoes, but I also sometimes wear them out and about.





Sunday, November 9, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Publishing a Blog Post


I have blogged frequently lately ...and on more than just relishing the little things in life! As you may know, I am post-breakup and even though I didn't plan on posting so much this week, it was nice to do something I enjoy. In addition, writing (or talking) gets thoughts out of my complex mind and sometimes makes it easier to figure things out. As an INFJ, I prefer things finalized so clicking "Publish" or "Schedule" is the part I take pleasure in, rather than the writing and editing text or taking or selecting imagery stages. I also enjoy reading comments. I wanted to genuinely thank my readers and friends for showing their love and support recently. I am touched. The world is a beautiful place.

I am dealing with it, which is all I can/should do. Even though my favorite time of year is April with my birthday and spring, now that I have escaped retail, I do believe that the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a wonderful time of year. As a lifestyle blogger, you know that I firmly believe life is what you make it, but the season's magic can work on me as well...

I have a lot coming up on the blog. Off the top of my head... There's my editing of my Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe, then the introduction of my Winter 2014-2015 Capsule Wardrobe. I usually post about my seasonal wardrobe on the first official day of the season, but it'll be cold here in Maryland this Thursday, November 13th so I may post it sooner since I'll already be wearing it. What else? Another book review. I thought I would explain why I was absent from here for a few weeks, what the heck I was devoted to thinking about, in addition to what you already know about anyway. Plus, hopefully writing many simple pleasures, holiday gatherings, and seasonal delights. Stay tuned.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Becoming a Woman Comfortable in Her Own Skin

selfie with a bouquet of summer sunflowers

Being comfortable with oneself by truly accepting what one cannot change or would be difficult to change, and furthermore, embracing all one's physical features to feel authentic and beautiful is so important for a life lived well. The French phrase, bien dans sa peau literally translates to "well in one's skin."

I feel like I am gradually becoming comfortable with myself now that I am in my 30s. (I think this commonly comes with age. Always having wanted to be grown up, my 29th year wasn't the last year of my 20s, it was definitely more pre-30 for me.) Over the past couple years, my actions have shown my thoughts have shifted. First, I introduced my picture on this blog after my 30th birthday trip to Paris in April. I debated about it for awhile before deciding. The truth was that I didn't feel like I was pretty enough before. As I became more comfortable with my looks, I was increasingly ready to 'come out' in that way. I also wanted this lifestyle blog to be more personal and maintaining my anonymity was no longer the way to accomplish that. Secondly, once a summer for the past two years, I felt fine in a sexy little bikini on the beach. Thirdly, the man I recently dated, E, told that I was beautiful all the time. Even though I told him I liked his "Good Morning, Beautiful" greetings and such, encouraging this behavior, I imagine that if I didn't, he would still have said it often and at times, rather insistently. After we dressed up to go out one evening, for example, he literally informed me that I was beautiful every two minutes throughout the entire date. During the following weeks, he also vocalized his memories that I looked particularly lovely that night and wondered where he could take me where I would dress up and be the most beautiful woman in the room again. One of the last couple days I saw him, I confessed to him that those comments really started to affect my thinking. I always had a healthy self esteem before, but after letting his words sink in, I felt prettier than I previously thought. His words inspired me to contemplate, but with my complex mind, my evolution came from within. As it should be, separate from outside judgment. Without him though, this blog post wouldn't exist, at least not anytime soon. Fourth, I also have invested more and more in my appearance lately, purchasing a bit more expensive and highly rated beauty products and actually using them on a routine basis. I am more in control of my look than ever before. When I look in the mirror, what I see more closely resembles what I want to see than ever before. I hope that this rather sudden realization of my gradual transformation leads me to live life more confidently.

It seems almost insane that I am just becoming comfortable with my physical appearance now at age 30. I am often single and will even travel alone and as a result of these facts, feel I know myself well. I am also fairly independent and very much live inside my head. Why is this acceptance so difficult?! There is the fact that I probably wasn't the cutest girl. In fact, I never show anyone pictures of myself with my long messy, wavy-curly hair from the 5th grade. For a decade until the 7th grade, I had such thick bangs, like half the-top-of-my-head thick. My mother thought it was easier to keep that part of hair short. Bangs are my signature, but I grew most of that out starting in the 7th grade, and kept a thin layer of fringe until I finally cut them just a bit thicker during college. Also, I was always one of the "smart kids" growing up. Socially acceptable, I didn't suffer from low self esteem. Although, I didn't receive all that much male attention K through 12. Additionally, I revere all things classic. Classic features for a woman are high cheekbones and slim long legs, neither of which I possess, thus my features did not align with my personal beauty aesthetic. My square face is rather full and my legs are shorter than average and primarily muscular. When I was a young girl, I would suck my cheeks in and gaze into the mirror on my bedroom closet door and daydream that that's what my face would look like when I was older and lost my baby fat. Heredity, unfortunately, had other plans. If I ever considered plastic surgery, it would have been to slightly enhance my cheekbones. I realize now that I will never have that done as I fully accept my face. It's me. Whenever I complained about my legs, E would reply that he liked them. I also dated a guy briefly years ago who was attracted to wide hips. I don't know if both comments helped, but they certainly didn't hurt. If you asked me a little bit ago if I thought I was beautiful, then my inner voice would first say something like, "I am halfway decent looking" or "I can get by." Or perhaps that I didn't even know that I was kinda cute until I signed up for Match.com memberships and received attention. I realize that I dwell on my negatives. I am very nice to others, but like most people, I am quite the bully to myself. My inner voice jumps all over what's wrong. It takes practice to be kind to oneself. I also think one should accept imperfection because being unique should be celebrated as well. Furthermore, one often doesn't even mind imperfections of a confident woman as he or she is distracted by her overall charisma. This short life is meant to be lived, fully, without being held back by nonsense.

There are so many things about my physical appearance that are positive. I like my overall shape: my height and weight as well as my hourglass figure. My brown hair color has never seen a single drop of dye. My favorite feature? My long eyelashes. E also adored my smile and I have to admit it's quick, big, bright ...and reflects happiness. I'm just gonna say it, I am beautiful.

Since this is more my personal journal, this blog does not offer many how to's. Sorry for not guiding you along the way, but I do not feel qualified to do so being a beginner. I assure you that there are so many wonderful resources out there providing helpful tips. In fact, I always love what Shannon has to say over at The Simply Luxurious Life. Nonetheless, since so many external factors inspired my recent developments, I hope my story may help someone on their own journey.



Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg


I downloaded the Kindle edition of The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane von Furstenberg the day it came out. I just had read this fashion designer's previous autobiography Diane: A Signature Life a couple of months ago and was already looking forward to more.

Of course, I love her iconic wrap dress, but I am more interested in how she personally cultivated the woman she is: glamorous, confident, independent, inspirational. The book is divided in half, between her personal and professional life. And what a life! Her passionate life is so incredibly full. This honest account is an engaging read.

Overall, her story is truly an inspiring one. In fact, I need to take note and become more fearless.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Book Review: Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle


I read the novel Heaven, Hell & Mademoiselle by H. C. Carlton based upon a recommendation from a blogger I adore, Fiona of how to be chic. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a quick read as I could hardly put it down! On the cover, it raves, "A delicious mix of Sex and the City and The Devil Wears Prada." That it is. If you covet Chanel and think 'Paris is always a good idea,' then you should definitely read it too.

The book is set in 1960s Paris, where there is a lot going on: Vietnam War protests and the city visibly divided between hippies promoting peace and love in the Left Bank and the traditional set upholding their conservative values on the Right. The fate of haute couture is even uncertain at this point!

The book follows four main characters and their stories intertwine within the world of haute couture. The character development is so effective that you root for them. A mystery torments one of them and you anticipate discovering the facts. All of them idolize Mademoiselle Chanel and not from afar either! They actually manage to interact with her. She's one of the narrators too since she has a paragraph every once in awhile. She's an older woman, yet still restless. I've never read 50 Shades of Gray and the like, but I enjoyed reading the sporadic love scenes. Cafes are name-dropped here and it makes me itch to return to the city myself. ...and now desire to own a well-tailored Chanel jacket!

I highly recommend it! I bought it cheap from Amazon and am actually keeping it on my bookshelf since I could see reading it again.



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

E

I know that I haven't updated in weeks. I am sincerely sorry and hope you, dear readers, will forgive me. In becoming the woman I am meant to be, I have changed my mind about something important and wished to devote myself to processing it. I realize this is mysterious. Again, I apologize.

I am sure I will write about that later, but for now, I want this beloved blog of mine to capture something else, someone rather. This journal that just so happens to be public at the moment is important to me and I would regret not documenting this brief yet major part of my life in a blog post.

If you know me through this blog or in real life, then you are well aware that I want to move (from Maryland) to Philadelphia. As a result, I respectfully declined local date offers. However, I agreed to go on a first date during the summer, with E. Our subsequent dating was quite a distraction from actively pursuing my plans. Since I prefer to keep so many of the details of the relationship between the two of us, I will refrain from elaborating here on this social media platform. What's important is that I fell in love with him and consequently, took Philly completely off the table. Love can come when you least expect it. It certainly came up unexpectedly and at an inopportune moment for me. Unfortunately, it happened to end last weekend. (And you shouldn't hate him.)

I am heartbroken. Sad. I miss him terribly already. Please do not worry though as I am functional. Plus, I will definitely return to being happy and fabulous, but I just require time first. Time alone. I am off from work tomorrow (instead of my usual Monday) and... need it.

As they say, it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I simply have not been in love often so far in my life. It's truly amazing to experience that. Although difficult for me now, I will always be grateful.

He's wonderful. ...which is a statement I am used to gushing to friends when catching up. E is adventurous, intelligent, affectionate, passionate, gentlemanly and overall, a good man. Tall, dark and handsome too. He also has an accent. Most importantly, he adored me. ...no wonder I fell in love!

I will always cherish so many of our truly beautiful moments together throughout our four months of dating.

I need some time to grieve my devastating loss before deciding about continuing with my plans for my life. In addition, I am inspired to blog, but ask for even more patience at the moment. Please stay tuned. Thank you.




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Chocolate Croissant from Starbucks


I've been wanting to try the Chocolate Croissant at Starbucks for awhile. There's a location inside the Target one block from my apartment community, so if it turned out to be good, then I could easily grab one as a treat every once in awhile. As you know from many previous posts, I thoroughly enjoy a coffee and pastry breakfast. Last Sunday, I finally tried it ...and... it was pretty decent. It reminds me of Panera's. It's definitely not a flaky pain au chocolat from Paris, but I'm still glad I tried it. And I'd order it again. I savored it with my to-go cup full of cappuccino.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Breakfast in Bed

Two Sundays ago, I baked chocolate croissants and enjoyed breakfast in bed. In addition to those fresh, warm chocolate chip-stuffed crescent rolls, my meal included espresso, orange juice, water and an apple. Check out how I set the tray...



It was nice to have a different setting. Also lovely to set up, I used a couple of red cloth napkins rather than white paper ones. I believe one should often use his or her best, even on random Sunday mornings. This event was completely spontaneous. I adore the Italian breakfast of a coffee and pastry.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall 2014 Capsule Wardrobe

I love it when the weather is cool enough to accessorize with a scarf! Finally, fall has arrived!



Basically, I follow the guidelines for the Capsule or Ten-Item Wardrobe set by Jennifer L. Scott of the blog The Daily Connoisseur and her book Lessons from Madame Chic. You can check out her fashion show video and then her commentary post.

I am pleased to present my...

16-Item Wardrobe for Fall:

1. new white 3/4 sleeve shirt from New York & Company Outlet

2. new long sleeve Pintucked Perfect Shirt from Ann Taylor

3. white long sleeve Essential Shirt from The Limited

4new dark pink striped 3/4 sleeve shirt from New York & Company Outlet

5. new 3/4 sleeve Wrap Jersey Top in Black from Boden

6. black long sleeve Essential Shirt from The Limited

7. brown cross-over 3/4 sleeve sweater from Ann Taylor LOFT

8. dark gray pants from Ann Taylor Factory Store

9. black pants by Alfani from Macy's

10. black trousers in curvy fit from Ann Taylor Factory Store

11. bootcut jeans with back pocket flaps by Levi's from JCPenney

12. bootcut jeans in curvy fit from Ann Taylor Factory Store

13. brown wool blend A-Line skirt with line design from Ann Taylor LOFT

14. dark gray pencil skirt from H&M

15. black pencil skirt by Banana Republic thrifted from Second Time Around

16. black paneled skirt from The Limited


LOFT Skirt with Stitched Line Design


The breakdown is 7 tops as well as 9 bottoms (5 pairs of pants and 4 skirts). 16 items total (plus extras yet to be discussed) works for me since I only do laundry once a week, work full-time in an office with a dress code of business casual, and maintain a busy life outside of work.

The two pairs of jeans and two pairs of black pants have different lengths, one to go with ballet flats and the other some type of heeled shoe: sandal, pump or boot.

Heavy on black and white as usual, I've also included warm hues such as pink and brown. I wanted a top in deep red this season, but sometimes more clothing is out of the budget. I will just have to carry a glass of ruby-colored Cabernet as often as possible! Capsule wardrobe usually limit colors so that everything goes with each other. 

Much warmer than my capsule wardrobe last fall, I plan to roll up the sleeves on the long sleeve shirts more often than not.

I've been browsing soft or silky blouses, maybe with a bow at the v-neck, online, but haven't seriously considered them, not having tried any on yet. Perhaps I'll give it a real shot for my winter wardrobe... Any recommendations are appreciated!



Extras:

-Tees:

 1. white scoopneck short sleeve tee from Ann Taylor LOFT

 2. white v-neck 3/4 sleeve tee from H&M

 3. purple cross-over 3/4 sleeve tee by Merona from Target

 4. new Intense Burgundy 3/4 sleeve slubbed cotton tee with button detail from LOFT

 5. new dark pink boatneck 3/4 sleeve slubbed cotton tee from LOFT Outlet

 6. new gray boatneck 3/4 sleeve slubbed cotton tee from LOFT Outlet

 7. gray boatneck 3/4 sleeve tee with white stripes from H&M

 8. black v-neck short sleeve tee from Target

 9. black scoopneck short sleeve tee from Ann Taylor Factory Store

 10. new black and white striped boatneck tee from Sweden Collection by Chance  

Paris seems to be influencing my style choices. I purchased four new boatnecks, including one striped and another in a medium gray. These join one that made the cut for my closet this season. With the addition of purple and burgundy, the theme of warm colors has continued. It's probably known that I do favor them, but I consciously eliminated all cool-colored tees from this season's choices because warm colors make sense to me to celebrate the season with its fall foliage. 


-Camisoles:

 1-5. 5 white (4 Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's and 1 without built-in bra from Ann Taylor LOFT)

 6. lacy silky cream from White House Black Market

 7-8. 2 pink (1 Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's and 1 from Ann Taylor LOFT)

 9. red from Ann Taylor LOFT

 10. black with white polka dots and lace trim from White House Black Market

 11. black with lace trim from Ann Taylor Factory Store

 12. black Everyday Camisole by Sonoma life + style from Kohl's

 13. black without built-in bra from Ann Taylor LOFT

 14. lacy silky black from White House Black Market

I often wear a cami under a shirt, cardigan and even a sheer or low cut tee.


-4 Crewneck 3/4 Sleeve Cardigans:

 1. black by Cherokee from Target

 2. ivory from New York & Company

 3. dark pink azalea from LOFT Outlet

 4. new black featherweight cashmere from J.Crew

First thing Friday morning, I ordered #4 which is my first 100% cashmere piece. I do possess a scarf that is a cashmere/silk blend. I feel sophisticated even owning such a luxurious fabric, let alone wearing it! I can't wait 'til it arrives!

My Closet: Core Items and Some Extras like Tees, Camisoles and Cardigans

Closet Closeup

-14 Scarves


-7 Outerwear Pieces:

 1. tan 3/4 sleeve belted safari jacket from The Limited

 2. khaki single breasted belted trench from Banana Republic Factory Store

 3. black single breasted trench from H&M

 4. khaki blazer from H&M

 5. chocolate brown corduroy blazer from Esprit

 6. black suit blazer from The Limited

 7. dark gray suit blazer from Ann Taylor Factory Store


-Special Occasion Wear:

 1. burgundy sweater with black lace top and short sleeves from Ann Taylor



 2. black lace dress with long sleeves from The Limited

 3. black faux-wrap dress with jeweled pin and long sleeves by American Living from JCPenney

 4. black wrap dress with short sleeves from Ann Taylor

 5. black v-neck sleeveless dress with folds from White House Black Market

 6. black pants from The Limited

The black pants have a matching blazer. A suit in excellent condition is crucial for a job fair and hopefully interviews (in Philadelphia) over the next several weeks.


-Belts


-Handbags including new black leather tote from Nine West Outlet


-Jewelry

I at least wear a pair of earrings and a watch everyday.


-2 Pairs of Sunglasses (brown and black)


-33 Panties 

Includes 10 new ones due to a couple of promotions at Victoria's Secret. This is decluttered for me! I mention this for the readers trying to downsize for the first time; some categories are easier than others and nobody's perfect. This is my justification: French women understand the importance of both beautiful and appropriate undergarments. 


-14 Bras


-Tights and socks


-Shoes including Boots

I do need to replace my black flats for work very soon, during this season. I've done a lot of browsing online, but am picky. In addition, I would love to add a nude pair of pumps to my collection. Maybe for my 31st birthday next spring...


-Pajamas including new Cotton Mayfair Pajama in Pink Stripe Lurex from Victoria's Secret

Inspired by Jennifer from The Daily Connoisseur, I finally purchased a grown-up set of matching pajamas that are "presentable."



I will create a new wardrobe for the winter as Maryland (and hopefully Pennsylvania!) enjoys four distinct seasons. I will incorporate sweaters during the colder months. For extras, I will replace my three short sleeve tees with four long sleeve options at least. Of course, I have a winter coat plus two warm scarves to add. Perhaps I'll become even more Parisian and introduce navy back into my closet. Let's see if I can come a bit closer to 10 core items next season...

In preparing for this post and the season of course, I bought many new pieces. All are noted in bold. Even though purchases are only sprinkled in, this is actually a lot for me. It felt like a major shopping spree. Since I am unable to afford much, I treat my clothes with care and luckily, they last many seasons. Some are years and years old and they wouldn't land on this list if they appeared shabby.

On that note, I hope my curated wardrobe and its extras overall reflect a more sophisticated image now that I'm in my 30s. Full of basics and classics with a Parisian touch, I think they do.