Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Travel Tuesday: The Mummers Day Parade in Philadelphia

I first heard about the Mummers Day Parade from the leasing consultant who helped me with my apartment in Philly. She highly recommended it, especially since my studio was located directly on the parade route. It's on January 1st as a celebration of the New Year. It's quite a celebration at that! The parade down the main North/ South thoroughfare called Broad Street actually lasts all day! It ends with a judged performance.

Right before my chance to see it in person, a friend told me it was like a blue collar Republican Mardi Gras. Never having seen that in New Orleans, I imagine so. It was very elaborate. I've only seen it once while living there. I invited my parents up to check it out because my mom loves herself a parade. We had a good time. As a break in order to warm up, we brought Italian pizza and subs takeout back to my place. It's very cold to watch so I think I'll only go again if I have a warm place to retreat to every once in awhile, like a friend's place, a hotel room or my own apartment (I can dream). I loved this tradition.

There are four types of Mummers: Comics, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades. They dress up in different ways and some play musical instruments. The Comics tend to dress up in a way and/or have a float that makes a social or political comment. They have a lot of time to prepare for this event in clubhouses located in South Philly. It has a long history which you can read more about on the parade's wikipedia page. Here is also one of the official sites: Philly Mummers.com.

I will not be attending this year as the 1st falls on a Saturday and I still work retail, but I hope to go see it again!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Style Sunday: Michelle is becoming a Minimalist

I love the idea of living simply. Without loads of material possessions nor a packed schedule. Since this is what minimalism can achieve, I think I'll give it a shot. With even more determination anyway! I have a pretty minimalist wardrobe after some work over some time, and love it; it works really well for me. In addition, I have embraced "the one in, one [or two] out" decluttering method, so I am officially challenged/ concerned how much more I can change.

For awhile now, I have followed blogs whose authors have gotten out of debt and who aspired to live a more simplified European lifestyle. Through these subjects, I stumbled upon the very inspiring community of minimalists online. I can see how owning less and, in turn, hopefully wanting less will aid in struggles with debt. You see, I have a lot of debt myself- of the credit card and student loan varieties. In fact, the major reason that I'm tied to this area and my current living situation is because of my credit card debt. I'm unable to change this at the moment, which I'd very much like to do. (New Year's Resolutions coming up soon! This'll probably be the most productive year in terms of those ever!) Ever since living in Philadelphia, I'm newly a city girl and would adore the idea of simply living in a fairly small apartment, and not wanting much more in the future myself. I also dream of living without a car, which, cost-wise, would mean no car payment, no insurance, no gas, no maintenance, no car wash, no interior vacuuming, no tickets or tolls, no cleaning supplies, no de-icer spray, etc! I could walk places or take public transportation, happily as I hate to drive.

I know I can't go very far with minimalism however. Blank white walls, for example, are not my cup of tea. I studied art history for six years afterall! I need my art, especially now my small collection of street art of Italy. I believe it was The Everyday Minimalist who defined minimalism as just owning what you love, want and use. I can certainly adopt this looser definition! One that fits me and which facilitates the kind of life I want to live.

Today, Serena from TEM recommended miss minimalist's book The Joy of Less, a minimalist living guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life (by Francine Jay) in her blog entry. Using Amazon's "search inside this book" feature, I was able to read a sizable excerpt. As previously stated, I've already gradually started to apply minimalism in my life, like I form a small pile of stuff to donate each and every week for example, yet, I think this book will still teach me new lessons. Heck, I've already parted with some old high school stuff after being inspired by the excerpt! With its five-star rating, this book comes quite highly recommended. Since my county's library system does not have it, I hope to work its purchase into my budget and order it with my next paycheck this upcoming Friday.

I hope to update you guys on my progress. I know the most difficult will be my big collection of "next apartment stuff." Will I give up a lot of that? I adore the idea of entertaining and can imagine myself as the perfect hostess, "domestic goddess" if you will. (I have given fabulous dinner parties in Philly and fun Superbowl Sunday parties and surprise birthday celebrations in college.) Anyway, over the years I have amassed a collection of items to entertain with. One of the biggest categories, if not the biggest, is glassware. I own at least four: champagne flutes, martini glasses, white and red wine goblets, and margarita glasses, and a couple of: double old-fashioned glasses and pilsners to name them off the top of my head, all stored away right now (since I temporarily live with my parents, ugh! There, I said it! ...and would rather not entertain here).

Yeah... I can't wait to get started on my new year! I hope it to be a year of great change, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Taxing Tourists

My Personal Photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and its crowd.
Toss a coin into the water over your shoulder and you will return to The Eternal City.

I had heard that Rome, Italy wanted to tax tourists staying in hotels and I just found out it's official. Thank you J for forwarding me this link:

Rome to tax tourists instead of locals

Starting January 1st, there will be a tax of up to 3 euro (which is like $4) added to your hotel bill per person per night in Roma. You skip this at a hostel. If you're on a budget or staying more than a couple of days in Rome, it could add up and have an impact.

The money actually goes to preserve the city's art and architecture. I love Italy for its art, so that's not a bad cause, and even though I'm not crazy about it, I don't really mind. From all the Italy-based travel narrative I read [Current book: Head over Heel], I'm aware that many Italians try their best to evade taxes, so maybe taxing tourists would be a more successful way of raising revenue than charging the locals!

In addition, Venice is currently talking about taxing tourists to come in. ...and that's my major stop on my next trip to Italy in March!

I hope this doesn't deter people from seeing Rome, which is incredible and endlessly fascinating. ...or Italy since it may become a trend!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Style Sunday: Winter White

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Marrakech Earrings
by stormysky

Snow White Mother of Pearl
by EmeraldMoonDesign

The Amanda Earrings

And this is my shape:
Mother of Pearl Quatrefoil Dangle Earrings
by floweravenue

Silk Georgette Blouse
Ann Taylor

Sleeveless Cotton Wrap Top
Ann Taylor

Cap Sleeve Top
Ann Taylor

3/4 Sleeve Wrap Top
Ann Taylor

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Baltimore Bar Review

Last Friday night I went out with a couple of guy friends to an area of Baltimore called Federal Hill. One of them just moved there. Between a nice dinner and bar hopping, we went to a bar with a magic show called Illusions. A father and son, Ken and Spencer, run it. The son's been doing magic since he was like 4. In fact, the family owns a magic shop a few doors down. Spencer does impressive card tricks on stage with some audience participation and tells silly jokes the whole time. It was hilarious. After that, the crowd moves down to the bar so that he can escape from a straitjacket hanging upside down in a number of minutes. It was amazing, a really good time, I highly recommend it.

Here's the info:

Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge
1025 S. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21230

I see this as a place you only go once since the show is the same every night, a must-see at that, but the bar is really nice... It has giant chandeliers and lots of leather couches. It has character. One of the bartenders was voted Baltimore's Funniest Man. I hope to go back.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Style Sunday: New Item on my Amazon Wish List

Here's something I added to my Amazon Wish List this week:

I love Target's Avington collection. In fact, I own the desk, file cabinet, TV stand, chest and nightstand ...and only want more! It is cheap furniture and it sucks to assemble each piece but I love it! I think this particular piece is pretty new, haven't noticed it before... I like that it's small as I'll probably be in small places for a number of years more. (Small and simple ...and movable is good.) And that it has nine spaces for bottles of wine, which is more than enough as wine doesn't really last in my household! I have so many glasses to store and I could store my most frequently used ones, i.e. my red wine goblets there. The drawer is nice and makes it truly match the rest of the pieces. If anyone would like to get me this for Christmas, it is currently on sale for about a $100!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Overweight and Oversized Baggage

This cute bear is in front of the Self Check-in Counter.

I sell luggage for a living. My guests come in and ask for the largest carry-on or checked bag allowable by the major airlines all the time. They also complain they just paid a huge sum for being over in some way. It's no secret that the airlines now nickel and dime you. I give the same education ...all the time, so I thought I'd share this information (which primarily concerns major domestic airlines). Fees aren't fun, so get around the charges this way...

For checked baggage, the weight limit is 50 pounds. If your bag is heavier and you can't scramble to redistribute some weight to other bags, you will be charged an overweight baggage fee, which start at $50 and only go up from there, one-way. Remember my advice to pack less! Buy a small hand-held luggage scale and use it. And take it with you so you can weigh your suitcase before heading to the airport for the return trip, when you're weighed down by souvenirs.

It isn't common for airlines to impose weight restrictions on carry-ons (yet) and I think it would be difficult to exceed these anyway. Make sure you can lift it!

So many people haven't even heard of oversized baggage fees for checked luggage, so I have to introduce the concept. The limit is usually 62 linear inches. This linear measurement is the sum of a bag's three dimensions. Add height, width and depth together. A large suitcase is usually 29 inches tall and usually you don't have to worry about being oversized with a bag of that size. Make sure you measure a 30" or 31" suitcase or a 35" duffel to make sure the linear measurement is under the magic number of 62.

If a carry-on is oversized, then it will be checked and checked bag fees probably apply. To be okay on all major domestic airlines, the carry-on linear measurement is 45 inches. There are airlines who allow a slightly bigger carry-on, these are AirTran, JetBlue and Southwest. Usually the airlines measure just the bag, as in not including the wheels (which stick out on spinners) and handles, but they could. If they fit it into a box, then they do. When shopping for a carry-on, a 21" or 22" tall bag is the biggest you can go (21"-22"x14"x9"). (Sometimes international airlines limit a bag at 19"x13"x8".) This carry-on is to be stowed in the overhead compartment. You are also permitted a personal item, like a handbag or business case, (small enough) to be stowed underneath the seat in front of you.

Before a trip or your next purchase of luggage, log onto the websites of the airlines you frequently use for specific information. I would love to see a guest who's done their homework!

Even after I explain this, some people take offense-- how dare I suggest they limit all they want to take! Someone recently told my associate that she planned on taking ten pairs of shoes, that of these her flip flops had to match every top... They will tell you they see lots of people who get by with huge bags and that they've had a bigger bag and no problem before. Every airline and, heck, every check-in associate acts differently. I might say "I just don't want you to run into trouble later" as luggage is usually a long-term purchase, especially the quality luggage I sell! Travel is hectic enough, comply with restrictions.

There are other forms of transportation, like car, bus and train, where they aren't so strict and penalizing!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Style Sunday: Style Icon Inspiration: Kate Middleton

My Style Icon is officially Kate Middleton, soon-to-be Princess.

I've never really had a style icon... I may like a celebrity's style but then there's many of her choices I don't care for, so I don't think of the person as a personal icon. As an adult, I've always dressed for myself, not following trends in order to fit in like I had used to, and felt fine not having someone in particular to look up to. But after her engagement to Prince William was announced, I think I have found style inspiration in Kate. While I don't love everything about her style, like the big hats and riding boots, I don't really mind because they still look good on her! Who the heck wears a hat better than her??

I think's she's very beautiful and I think that's what you notice about her-- her long brown hair, her "charismatic" smile, her overall polish ...instead of her clothes, but she has chic clothes to complement her beauty. I often see the word "understated" in description of her style. I think this down-to-earth style allows her beauty to shine. She always looks great from head (or rather hat) to toe.

She has a classic style, which seems like her and doesn't change much season to season, year to year. Her clothing is always fitted, "body-conscious." I never liked anything with great volume-- huge ruffles or anything that uses the adjective "boyfriend" (as in the oversized "boyfriend cardigan"). I also like that Kate prefers tailored layering pieces, especially fitted cardigans, jackets and coats. And white over color, which particularly  interests me right now. I have been looking for white pieces lately, which are not so easy to find! She pairs white, often in the form of white pants, with neutrals. If Kate wears a print, it's often a nice and bold one, even geometric. She will vary texture, suede with denim for example. One of her style staples for a casual look is a pair of jeans. She often wears skirts. Like Kate, I adore wrap dresses too. I thought the blue Issa wrap dress she chose to wear for the announcement of her engagement was stunningly beautiful. Her gowns for fancy occasions are fabulous on her. If she accesorizes with more than a hat, it's a single long, dainty necklace which I should try more of... She layers it on top of any look, casual or elegant, which is something I should consider. It all seems chic yet effortless. I wouldn't mind if my personal style be described as "put together" without looking like I was trying too hard. Effortlessly sophisticated. Of course Kate's style will change when she enters the royal family,  more customized for her, only to be more elegant I'm sure. This chic commoner will probably change the look for future royalty.

Her style is representative of a group called "Sloane Rangers" or "Sloanes." They shop in Chelsea where one of the streets and squares are named Sloane. This is kind of UK's answer to the American "preppy." The style is going through a revival and it has some history to it. Diana was truly a Sloane, especially before she married Prince Charles.