Sunday, May 31, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Dining Out

I rarely dine out due to budget, so it was especially nice to go out to dinner last night with my friend Elizabeth. I think prior to that, the last time I ate in a restaurant was for lunch on my April 15th birthday. Still concerned with my money however, we decided to go to Fridays because, as a Stripes member, I received a 'buy one entree and two beverages and get an entree free' offer. It was wonderful.

I wrote about dinner out on a Saturday night as a simple pleasure previously. Check it out here.

First, we ordered drinks...


Liz's drink is on the left. She chose the BFM, The Best Fridays Margarita. On the right, I went with the new Ultimate Casamigos Strawberry 'Rita. Both were delicious! I always love whatever their current flavored ultimate margarita is.

Next, she ordered my old favorite entree, the Bruschetta Chicken Pasta, which looked fantastic. I tried the French Dip, which was good, but I think that if I dine at this restaurant again, that I would select something else. I remember their burgers being great.

We split this dessert, the Brownie Obsession...


The brownie was decadent. Only some ice cream was left in the skillet.

I truly enjoyed the dining experience. Since I do not often eat out, it was special. I had fun. 

I should also say that Elizabeth is a wonderful friend. Without really going into it, when she first came in to pick me up, I needed to get something that just occurred off my chest and then decide what I was going to do about it real quick. She both listened and gave me great advice. Because of her, I was able to leave the drama behind much more quickly than just by myself, and then I could thoroughly enjoy my evening, not from the very start, but nearly so.

Elizabeth is my 'go to' day trip (and now travel) partner. So, I think we might visit a French pastry shop in Baltimore sometime during June because I discovered that they make the pain aux raisins that I got her hooked on in Paris. I'm looking forward to the pain au chocolat myself!



Monday, May 25, 2015

Summer 2015 Reading List

I love to read and am looking forward to several books in particular this summer. On average, I finish a book in two weeks, so I am posting this when I had six books on this list for June, July and August. I'm sure I'll add to the list later.

Michelle's Summer Reading List:

1

I pre-ordered Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin and it arrived during the middle of March. I read just over half of it over the next month, then I stopped to read several other books, so about a month and a half later, I am starting this important book from the beginning again. Amazingly thorough, I am certain that it will be life-changing.


2

Even though my home is decluttered and organized, I would still like to read one of the major books on the topic, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. The queue for each book and ebook in my library system is several hundred long. Seriously, I was number 358 for one of the digital books, so I intend to purchase the Kindle edition on amazon. This is a highly recommended and reviewed book. I don't know if it will inspire me to make changes, but I am interested in finding out what all the fuss is about and for it to be an easy, breezy read for me.


3

Summer is the season for escape and I have to have a book set in either Paris or someplace in Italy on my summer reading list! Just released in May, My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts made the cut. Mentioning it in three posts so far, Shannon from the blog The Simply Luxurious Life approves of it. I will buy the Kindle version.


4

I wanted something summery to read on the beach or poolside and selected Summer Sisters: A Novel by Judy Blume. This fictional tale also comes highly reviewed. I could order a used paperback on amazon or borrow it from the library.


5

I read Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.) by Karen A. Chase back in March but want to reread it so I can publish a review on the blog. I own this $0.99 book on my Kindle. I look forward to both rereading this fantastic book plus sharing my thoughts with you.


6
The author adores a chocolate truffle like I do.

I purchased the paperback, Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide by Shannon Ables back in December 2014. I adore her blog, The Simply Luxurious Life. I am excited for her right now as she is moving this summer. Again, I want to reread this amazing book in order to both remind myself of tips to improve my life and review it here.



If you make a purchase on amazon, then make sure you enter "smile.amazon.com" into the address bar so that a charitable organization of your choice can benefit.

What would you like to read this summer? Do you have any recommendations for me?



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Chocolate Cake. Plus, Pause and Remember on Memorial Day

I took a few vacation days this past week. Off Sunday through Thursday, I thoroughly enjoyed my time off before my busy season of June, July and August at work. You know that I love travel, but unfortunately, I was unable to afford a trip. Instead, I entertained at home multiple times. You have already read about my dinner party for three where I served my pasta specialty topped with sliced grilled chicken as well as my coffee date with Kate (from Seeking Small). Tuesday evening, I had dinner with my 12-year-old godson J, who I hope to spend more time with this summer. During the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, I had Kate and her family over. It was the first time that I met her newborn twin girls. It may be the last time I see Kate for quite awhile as she is moving to England soon. I served espresso and deep-dish chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And also glasses of chilled rosé from Provence, a bottle I picked up on my birthday from that wine shop I adore Bin 201. Oh, and cocoa topped with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles for three-year-old E. They brought macarons from a French pastry shop in Charm City called Patisserie Poupon. All this entertaining was accomplished on a shoestring budget. Even though I was concerned if I was serving enough, I enjoyed myself and think my guests did too. I tried my best with what I had. And anyway, despite saving money, I will serve more next time with summer commission rolling in.

I love to eat and I treated myself to two special foods over those vacation days. One was a giant bag of small hard pretzels that I have been snacking on but yet have to put a dent in the bag! The other treat was a small round Belgian chocolate cake. Until the chocolate truffle eclipsed chocolate cake as my favorite food sometime over the past couple of years, a decadent chocolate cake reigned supreme for years and years.

Isn't it beautiful?
It really is on the small side.
This placemat was custom-made 
and is smaller than normal for my non-standard size dining room table.

It was delicious and I savored a slice as a dessert to lunch and dinner many days. I did not consume the entire thing though, my godson ate a slice and I threw another slice away. I plan to eat healthier over the next couple of weeks to balance this particular calorie splurge out, but I am so happy I enjoyed it.




To my American readers:
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. As a lifestyle blogger desiring to embrace each season, I often write that Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, but it is more than that. I ask you to take a few moments, before your cookout, first dip in the pool, trip to the boardwalk or shopping spree, to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in protecting us, either specifically or in general. After that, go ahead and enjoy your freedoms. ...savor summer foods, welcome the new season, and plan what you are doing to do with those longer days.

Stay tuned for posts revealing what I plan to wear and read this upcoming season. I usually do a Summer Bucket List, but I decided to catch up on trying out new recipes instead since I've already committed to that this year. I earn more during the summer and would likely to be able to afford more ingredients at the grocery store as well as new cookware, gadgets, fun patterned cloth napkins on Amazon or at Target.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

Movie Review: A Five Star Life. Plus, a Bit More on My Birthday

I experienced just a bit of bad luck on my birthday so I ended up enjoying my evening alone. Luckily, the universe was kind, sometime that day, Jennifer from The Daily Connoisseur posted a foreign film that she was looking forward to and a link to its trailer on facebook. This movie entitled A Five Star Life was in Italian with English subtitles. Always up to embrace a theme, I thought the rental would go nicely with my Italian dinner (the delicious Mom's Lasagna from Maggiano's that you order at lunch to take home plus a glass of my signature Bolla Chianti of course). I enjoyed the movie and it turned out to be a lovely evening overall.


I watched this over a month ago, so I will try my best to give it a quality review.

This film was about a woman who meticulously reviewed luxury hotels around the world as a secret shopper. So busy, she did not have a family of her own at home. It simply didn't get to her as much as it did others! She was confronted about her glamorous yet nonconformist life choices by her sister who had a young family. Her ex who was dealing with relationship(s) also prompted her to analyze her life a bit. I loved that her brief meeting with another woman who valued authenticity and lived life to the fullest was the one who really got her thinking.

I relished observing this chic main character! The actress' name is Margherita Buy. Absolutely lovely, she was a beautiful woman of a certain age whose clothing fit perfectly. The background, the five-star hotels, were also stunning. As a traveler, I wish that the viewer saw more of each locale though. However, simply focusing on the luxury hotels adds to the film's message.

Not a whole lot happened in this movie. Instead, it captured real life. I think I see this more in foreign films than I do ones produced domestically. It reminded me of The Lunchbox from India which Jennifer also highly recommended. I also thought the plot was similar to Up in the Air, an American movie with George Clooney. From the reviews, others thought so too.

I highly recommend this movie for its simplicity, beauty and honesty. ...and for being Italian! If I were hosting a movie night and my guest(s) were up for a foreign film, this would definitely be in the running.



I had a wonderful birthday last month. You guys know all about my shopping spreemy trip to see the cherry blossoms, and that I received red roses and two-tone tulips, but I also wined and dined both in and out with friends and family. I felt very loved. I enjoyed the time I took off from work, which included activities such as cooking and baking. For example, I savored a brookie while watching this movie.

This is my birthday cake, the Chocolate Marquis which is layers of chocolate mousse and cake covered with ganache from a favorite bakery, I shared with family and my brother's girlfriend's family at Easter...


I'd have to give my 31st birthday five stars!



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: Chic Inspiration

I enjoyed reading the eBook Chic Inspiration: Imaginative Ways to Live a More Magical Life by Fiona Ferris.


As an Amazon Prime member, I borrowed this title for free, but it only costs 99 cents to buy. You can also read it free when you subscribe with Kindle Unlimited.

I adore Fiona from her blog How to be Chic. Sometimes, a post, her words, will stick with me days or a week after I've read it. I've even participated in one of her decluttering challenges, so her blog has actually changed my life.

This book is about how to be inspired to live your days in a chic way. The author, who is very feminine and French, shares her own inspiration.

I live inside my head and am a value-driven individual, so my thoughts really do affect my actions. Of her tips, I plan to incorporate a few into my life, such as...

* to walk slower and more elegantly.
I walk quickly both for exercise and to get things done. Maybe I should stroll in a chic way!

* be happy with smaller portions as well as to savor and enjoy the taste of food rather than shoveling it in.
I come from a family of big eaters, so portion control will always be a challenge for me. For a slim silhouette, I should make an effort to eat more slowly.

* to have a notebook and pen ready for quote inscription.
I do have a "Motivation" board on Pinterest full of quotes, but I may designate a notebook for inspiration I find in everyday life and even write down a word or phrase I came across and like.

If you follow Fiona's blog and want to read more on her personal inspiration for a chic life or tips on how to gain inspiration yourself, then pick up this cheap little eBook. I feel that it is important to remind yourself how you want to live in order to stay on track.

This is actually her second eBook. I may have to check out her first one!



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Book Review: Inspiration for Homemakers

Inspiration for Homemakers by Tracy Lee is a wonderful little eBook.


I paid just 99 cents for this new book on amazon. If you are an Amazon Prime member, then you may borrow something like this once a month for free. It also comes at no cost if you subscribe to kindleunlimited.

I regularly follow the author's blog, Have Less. Do More. I should leave her comments because her content is so good plus she's a regular commentor of mine.

The author is a confident woman with such a clear, concise voice in her writing. In this short yet sweet book, she discusses living well at home on a budget. I have a feeling that even if she didn't have to be frugal due to circumstance that this nonconformist would still firmly believe in this way of life. She believes in living life simply, consciously and intentionally as well as full of gratitude and engaging the five senses. Each chapter offers many wonderful tips and inspires the reader to make an effort and prioritize items for a life lived well regardless of how little (or even, arguably, how much) money one makes. Timely for me, this is something I identify with at this stage of my life. My own decisions led me to be rent poor. I am mentally ready to radically change my life, but until I am financially prepared, for now, I have my own home that I simply adore and I am happy. I could always use more inspiration and reminders on how to live well on a budget within it.



Monday, May 18, 2015

Easy and Economical Entertaining: Dinner Party

I had two of my high school girlfriends J and C over on Saturday night. They're pretty busy with their families, so I was thrilled to finally have time together scheduled. I served dinner. I wanted to share exactly how I managed to throw a fabulous dinner party for three with fairly severe time and budget constraints.

I happen to be immersed in what I call my "ramen noodles stage of life" minus the ramen plus penne pasta, tomato sauce and cheap Chianti. I make a sincere effort not to complain nor dwell on the negative. Furthermore, I do try to appreciate what I have and strive to live well within my means. So, my little dinner party was accomplished on a shoestring budget.

I was also crunched for time as well. Towards the end of the week, I realized that it had been a really long week at work. I was working alone three of the five days instead of just one. Two of those days I worked from 8:30 to 6 with a lunch break. We had a resident event, breakfast, so I walked into the office around 7:10 one day. Some marketing people informed my boss sometime well after opening on Thursday that I was having an Open House [at the apartment community] on Friday and Saturday. Thankfully, I elected to take a few vacation days this week, before the busy summer season starts around Memorial Day. I am off Sunday through Thursday. My workweek ends on Saturday at 5 PM, despite being exhausted, I agreed to Saturday night because they were available and I scheduled that dinner party to begin "anytime after 6." I did chill out on the sofa for five minutes before starting to prepare for the evening.

I do employ a regular cleaning schedule. Each day of the week, I accomplish certain chores. With self-discipline and trying to develop habits, I usually stick with the plan. However, I have been lax with my dusting and bathroom lately. I didn't have the time to do any extra cleaning prior to my guests' arrival. In fact, after 5, I only took out the trash. I also dusted the dining room tabletop with Pledge before heading to work that morning. My home is always straightened though, which many (if not all) regard as clean. Some people even take their shoes off when they enter my home even though I would never want or need this. I think they might do this because my carpet looks clean rather than their own custom. I wouldn't want them to feel like they're doing anything wrong by letting them know they may keep their shoes on. I suppose I "fake" clean well. This proved invaluable for my event. It's very Italian and French to have an immaculate house.

Additionally, I could have walked to a couple of nearby stores at 5 to pick up a bottle of wine I would look forward to, some antipasti and a small bouquet of flowers I could arrange on the table. But it was raining and there was a a chance of thunderstorms at 5:15 in the forecast, so I decided against it. One friend volunteered to bring brownies for dessert, which took care of that and the other texted that she would bring Coke and Diet Coke. They are not wine drinkers and one of them is pregnant (and the other is trying). That got me out of making sweetened iced tea. These two contributions truly helped me. I served a red wine that I had in my cabinet (received from the 'wine of the month club' gift membership). Normally, Malbec is not my favorite, but I lucked out since this one was perfectly fine and I actually liked it. I also chilled a bottle of white wine, a Pinot Grigio, which happened to go unopened. For antipasti, I simply cut up about eight squares of sharp cheddar cheese and placed them alongside a row of Harvest Wheat Toasteds (crackers) on a small olivewood cutting board. In lieu of fresh flowers on the table, I placed an unscented white votive candle in each of three clear Depression glassware little punch glasses. I also lit a candle with a rose scent in my living room.

I only have three of one kind of red placemat so I put those on the table where people were sitting. Another red one that coordinates with the set was topped with the food and drink. I used paper napkins and my regular (and only!) set of silverware and white salad bowls for the main dish. I poured wine into stemmed glasses from HomeGoods and soda along with a few ice cubes into plain glasses from Target. A Pandora station was playing from my phone in the background. (Plugged in because my battery needs to be replaced soon.) I also changed my clothes, wearing a black top with my jean skirt.

I failed to take pictures that evening, but two featured in this post are of my lunch of leftovers the following day. (I also had enough for Sunday dinner too.)


My main dish was pretty cheap. It was also easy. I used my pasta specialty, which is a 'go to' dish I prepare once a week. This time, I served Barilla rigatoni with Classico Marinara with Plum Tomatoes and Olive Oil sauce tossed with sauteed vegetables topped with grilled sliced chicken (seasoned with only salt and freshly ground pepper). My vegetables included red pepper, zucchini, halved grape tomatoes, and spinach. I only used half of a gigantic red pepper and one small zucchini instead of the two that I bought at the store so that I could eat them later in the week. I usually have so many vegetables in a pasta dish, they rival the amount of noodle used. I did not use garlic, onion, herbs or any other seasonings that could have added a different level of flavor. Nonetheless, I felt that the dish turned out well. The ladies really seemed to enjoy it and flattered me by asking for the recipe.


I had vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and sprinkles so I made the brownies a la mode. I served dessert in my white latte bowls from Anthropologie. The ice cream was on sale at the grocery store and I used a Cartwheel discount on the whipped cream at Target. Those two recent purchases I had in mind for either this evening or other entertaining this week. I had the syrup and sprinkles on hand. The brownies alone were delicious.

It was fun to catch up with the girls. Among other topics, I confessed that I am pretty poor and I suppose I couldn't hide my blindingly white, empty refrigerator when they put the leftovers in there for me, so I am pleased that since these two coupon and offered that I might reap their rewards as well. They also asked what brands I use in the bathroom and I showed them by opening my medicine cabinet doors. They will often get pasta incredibly cheap and even things like deodorant free. I could truly use that help and would be incredibly grateful.

I was so pleased that the girls so enjoyed themselves that they were sad to leave just after 9 due to family commitments and that they wanted to do this kind of thing more often. I would be thrilled to hostess more! Especially when I am now confident I can do so fabulously on such a tight budget.

I wanted to write this post to encourage my readers to entertain more at home. I am a perfectionist and am here to say that you shouldn't wait until your home and budget are perfect to start to have people over. As other lifestyle bloggers will advocate, your guests are absolutely delighted to receive such an invitation, they genuinely want you to succeed and do not point out what's wrong by apologizing for it. I have personally found this to be true. If you want to entertain, make it happen. Go with what you know and have. Simply have the desire and make an effort. This comes through.

As I mentioned, I am currently on vacation. With this dinner party on Saturday night and my coffee date with Kate, my time off has certainly started off really well. ...and I have more exciting plans for the rest of my days! In addition, I hope to publish a blog post every day through Thursday or at least work on posts so that I am keeping up with my average of 10-13 a month going live before the month ends. I feel so behind in all that I wish to share. There are at least a couple of (or a few?) book, movie and wine reviews as well as entries on other topics. Maybe I'll even work on my big summer capsule wardrobe post... I feel more like me (like I'm living up to my potential) when I express myself in writing. So, stay tuned!

Have a wonderful week!

Dark pink azaleas (my favorite flower) in a bud vase on my desk from last week



Sunday, May 17, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Coffee Date with a Friend

This afternoon, Kate took me to my favorite coffee shop. It was so great to be in a place I love and catch up with a like-minded friend. I was happy for her too, as she was indulging in some child-free time.

I ordered a large cappuccino and a blueberry crumble muffin. The coffee was delicious as always but the muffin was so good that it stopped me for a sec! Fluffy texture studded with juicy berries and topped with just a bit of crunchy crumble. I savored every last bite.


Photo by Kate [of Seeking Small]
Instagram via Facebook

Happiness.



Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Book Review: Picnic in Provence

Last night, I finished the Kindle edition of Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard, the woman who wrote Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes. This second book is fantastic and I recommend it.


Elizabeth and Gwendal spontaneously decide to move into an old house located in a small village after traveling in Provence. The author is pregnant during the trip and the story follows the small family of three through the opening of a family business, an ice cream shop specializing in flavors of the local market produce. The seasonal produce is revered, as it should be. Each chapter ends with several recipes.

I want to move to a city badly, so reading about country life wasn't my absolute favorite, but the writing is so good and I truly identify with the author. She provides an honest account of life, her personal trials and errors, highlighting her perspective of her family life. I find in the author a kindred spirit because we have some major things in common. One, she truly struggles with something I have yet to discuss on the blog. Two, she feels that her 30s are her natural age. She writes, "I'm an old soul. ... Everyone has a natural age, and there's something about my thirties that just fits. When I hit thirty-one, I somehow felt right in my skin. My mental age and my actual age finally merged, like overlapping film negatives synchronized for a perfect Technicolor image." This articulates how I feel as I have always wanted to be "grown up" as well. Halfway through age 30, I became a woman comfortable in her skin myself.

This is solidly good travel writing/memoir, so if you enjoy that genre, definitely put this on your summer reading list.



Sunday, May 10, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Free Amazon Prime Instant Video

After I came home on Saturday night, I decided to select one of the movie rentals free with my Amazon Prime membership. I intended to pick a film that I've seen and just watch 30 minutes of it to wind down before bed. That didn't happen. I think I have seen The Answer Man twice before and remember it being good. It also starred the lovely Lauren Graham (of Gilmore Girls fame) and was set in my beloved Philadelphia. ...but, I actually watched the whole thing. It has a captivating script, keeping my interest until the credits.


Jeff Daniels plays this author who wrote a book that was basically an interview with God. Dodging fame as well as acquaintances with endless questions for two decades, he lived an isolated existence, turning out to be socially awkward. One day, his back went out and he crawled on the city streets and into a chiropractor's office. He falls for this woman played by Lauren Graham who solves his back problems. He also meets a struggling bookstore owner who is a recovering alcoholic. Eventually, with these new friends, he heals from his past and rejoins society.

I love the main character's wise insight sprinkled throughout the film. Additionally, the performances are wonderful. Set in Philadelphia, the movie makes me want to stroll those streets. Sometimes I was familiar with the street or at least the neighborhood in the background. Movies often invoke my wanderlust.

I wasn't expecting to stay up late and watch the whole thing on my Kindle. So, it should come as no surprise that I recommend this movie.



I had a good day today, this Mother's Day. My mom, grandmother, brother's girlfriend and I got professional pedicures before dining out with my sister (who just got off from work), brother, dad, and grandfather. It was my first time trying this particular restaurant too. Oh, and I selected Big Apple Red by OPI for my nail polish color. As a gift, I gave my mom two large jar candles by Yankee Candle. I thought she would like Beach Walk and Fresh Cut Roses and it seems she did.

I would like to wish all moms, moms-to-be, step-moms, dog and cat mamas a very happy Mother's Day! I hope you ladies doing one of the hardest jobs in the world take true pleasure in your special day.



This happens to be my 500th post. I thank you very much for reading and hope you'll stick around for 500 more.



Monday, May 4, 2015

Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

What's black and white and chic all over?

Hopefully my spring capsule wardrobe this year!

I am addicted to Pinterest and often click on the Women's Fashion category. Check out my Style: Clothing board. Lately, the outfits I am drawn to are black and white, so that is what I want to wear right now. I know that this is usual for me, so I will change it up just a bit this summer as I'm seriously considering going more Mediterranean, wearing white and blue with pops of warm color. I've already ordered a blue and white printed dress. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.


I delayed this post until after shopping around my April 15th birthday. Then, when I went to work on it, life delayed me multiple times. As a result, this post will be far from perfect. Sometimes, good enough is good enough. I imagine I will be publishing my summer wardrobe post soon, as early as Memorial Day weekend which is this month!

Basically, I follow the rules for a capsule wardrobe used by Jennifer of The Daily Connoisseur and author of the books entitled Lessons from Madame Chic and At Home with Madame Chic. Check out her fashion show here. Although, mine is much more than ten items, double that in fact, and I have separate collections of clothing for spring and summer since Maryland enjoys four distinct seasons.

See what I wore this season last year here. Going from a 22-item wardrobe for spring 2014 to just 20 in 2015, I am improving. Maybe I'll get to just 10-15 core items every season one day...

My spring capsule wardrobe and some of my extras fill half of one of my closets, 
with space in between each hanger.




Michelle's 20-Item Spring 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

1. white short sleeve shirt from Ann Taylor


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


3. new pink and white printed Ashton shirt from The Limited*


4. pink and black printed wrap top from Ann Taylor Factory Store


5. lavender and white striped short sleeve shirt from Ann Taylor


6. black sheer lace Baroque top from Express


7. black top with sheer short sleeves and scarf from White House Black Market


8. black straight leg pants in Classic Fit by Merona from Target


9. dark gray pants from Ann Taylor Factory Store


10. black ankle pants by Mossimo from Target (tailored shorter)


11. petite bootcut jeans from Ann Taylor


12. Levi's 515 bootcut jeans with studded back pockets from Kohl's**


13. new Levi's 515 regular length bootcut jeans in Lights Out from JCPenney


14. denim skirt by Liz Claiborne from JCPenney


15. white eyelet A-line skirt from Ann Taylor Factory Store


16. black and white printed pleated skirt by INC from Macy's


17. dark gray pencil skirt from H & M


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


19. black paneled skirt from The Limited


20. black wrap dress from Ann Taylor




Extras



T-Shirts

1. white scoop neck short sleeve tee from LOFT

2. new white scoop neck short sleeve tee from Boden

3. white scoop neck short sleeve tee with black horizontal stripes from H & M

4. dark gray boat neck 3/4 sleeve tee with white horizontal stripes from H & M

5. gray boat neck 3/4 sleeve tee from LOFT Outlet

6. black short sleeve tee with extra fabric at neckline and waist from Ann Taylor Factory Store

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

8. black scoop neck short sleeve tee form LOFT

9. black v-neck short sleeve tee by Merona from Target



Scarves***

1. terra cotta half silk, half cashmere by Tie Rack London

2. dark pink

3. red pashmina from The Limited

4. red dotted from Target

5. purple

6. ivory

7. new tile print polyester from The Limited

8. black with white polka dots



Belts

1. black/brown reversible from Target

2. black skinny bow belt from White House Black Market

3. black wide braid from The Limited



Cardigans

1. new black crewneck by Merona from Target

2. dark pink crewneck from LOFT Outlet

3. black crewneck in Italian Cashmere from J.Crew



Camisoles

1-4. "new white" Sonoma Life + Style Everyday Cami's from Kohl's 

5. white from LOFT


6. ivory silky and lacy from White House Black Market


7. dark pink Sonoma Life + Style from Kohl's


8. slightly darker pink from LOFT Outlet


9. deep red from LOFT Outlet


10. black silky and lacy from White House Black Market


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


12. black from LOFT Outlet


13. black with lace trim from Ann Taylor Factory Store


14. black Sonoma Life + Style from Kohl's




Fragrance

Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere



Others

Shoes: Sandals, Flats, Heels, Boots (17); Outerwear: Blazers; Jackets; Trenches; Handbags; Wallets (2); Sunglasses (2); Jewelry; Bras (8); Panties; Tights; Socks; Shapewear; Sleepwear; Robes (2); Lingerie; Activewear; Etc.

1. new black Ocaun ballet flats from Aldo

2. new Lolleea Wedge Sandal in Silver by Unisa from DSW

3. new black Knit Blazer by Stylus from JCPenney

4. new Hatchet tote in Midnight Black from Aldo

5. new black Sadie wallet by Hobo from Nordstrom



Special Occasion Clothing

1.blue and ivory printed pencil skirt from Ann Taylor Factory Store

2. blue ruffled neckline sleeveless shirt from Ann Taylor Factory Store

Easter Sunday Feast Outfit

3. black sleeveless dress with pleats from neckline by Mossimo from Target

4. black sleeveless dress with white polka dots and ruffle on either side of square neckline by Worthington from JCPenney

5. black and white floral printed and striped full skirt from The Limited


6. black dress with fabric folds from White House Black Market



* I ordered the Printed Ashton Blouse online and since it was a bright color, a print plus a different fabric, it was a risk. Luckily, it worked out. I will wear it this spring and then consider it for next spring. I am used to clothing being fitted, so it takes some getting used to as it is a blouse featuring a loose fit. My waist is more defined when I top it with my dark gray blazer. I know it's not the stylish staple of the nude shirt by Equipment, but I feel "grown up" in it.

** I bought a similar pair of these on eBay fairly recently. Wanting to keep numbers down, I stored that pair away. I happened to chose to include the lighter pair from Kohl's as a core item for the spring.

*** I own one more scarf, but since it's heavier, I stowed it away until next winter.



Here's how a casual look comes together...

This is Michelle as a thirtysomething.
Black blazer from JCPenney, white tee from Boden, blue jeans from Ann Taylor, 
black flats from Aldo, CZ studs from The Limited.
I love every item, separately and together.

Add a dark pink scarf and black tote from Aldo
and I'm ready to go out, to run an errand for example.
I love neutrals but still need a pop of vibrant and warm color.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Flowering Shrubs

I am so happy it is spring. I make sure I get out and enjoy both the flowers and fine weather, especially over the last three days. I walked to a store after work on Friday and Saturday. After this errand on Saturday evening, I sipped a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon while catching up with social media on my phone, seated at my bistro set on my balcony. Sunday morning, I squeezed in a 15 minute walk through a neighborhood in 62 degree weather for both exercise and to see the azaleas now in bloom. The dark yet bright pink azalea is my favorite flower and they usually bloom around my mid-April birthday. Unlike the neighborhood where I grew up with every other yard decorated by the white, light pink, dark pink or purple flowering bushes at least, I only saw six front yards with this specific plant on my stroll today. I snapped this photo of an old bush (that's been there as far back as I can remember) in front of my parents' place, now sparse since a nearby tree has grown to block its sunlight. Nonetheless, their cheerful color still makes me smile.


Sunday afternoon, I attended my family's cookout, dining al fresco, in 79 degree weather (wearing new sparkly sandals to show off a fresh (at-home) pedicure). I left with a handful of long lilac branches, gathered from bushes in the backyard, intended for a larger pitcher rather than a vase. (The pitcher is from HomeGoods.) Not only are these lavender flowers pretty, they are incredibly fragrant.




I happened to bring home lilacs while doing laundry at my parents' last weekend too. That time, I arranged them in a clear glass vase.


I love experiencing spring both indoors and out.