Monday, May 30, 2011

100th Post!

This is the 100th post on the italiagal blog!

I absolutely love it and I hope you guys do too! Grazie mille ('thank you very much' or literally 'a thousand thank yous') for reading! It helps me to picture a specific audience when I write, so I truly appreciate it.

This blog is something I wanted for a long time and it's almost perfect. You see, I wanted to wait until my next fabulous phase in life and then write about that ...after I was living in an apartment of my own again and possibly working in a Study Abroad office. I'm so happy I started italiagal earlier than planned though, at a time when I'm in transition, working hard to pay off the debts of my old life and creating savings for the new one (I had to have following a quarter-life crisis). Focusing on the positive and my passions like anything Italian, travel and style when my life is in a not-so-thrilling transition makes for a happier life. Happiness is truly about appreciating the little things and sharing with others. In addition, I also loved that I visited Italy since this blog's creation back in August and posted about my fantastic trip! So... this blog is here to stay, and stay tuned for posts about my new life (hopefully not too far away!).

This is where it all started, my first post: Benvenuto! (which means "Welcome!").

I am proud to report that my most popular post is: Travel Tuesday: Overweight and Oversized Baggage.

I am happy to announce that I am doing a giveaway on this anniversary post! One lucky reader will receive:

a copy of
The One Hundred, A Guide to The Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own
 by Nina Garcia!

I adore this book and find the author's writing so entertaining. This is about the creation of personal style and having basics in a stylish woman's wardrobe. I've written this post and then this one directly inspired by this style bible and then many, many other updates about cultivating my personal style. Ms. Garcia's words are always at the back of my mind when I think on the topic. I hope the winner enjoys it as much as I do.

I love that it is 100-themed. Perfect.

To enter: please leave a comment naming a piece in your wardrobe that is so very you on this post. Make sure you leave something where I can get in touch with you, to collect shipping address information later.

I will take all the names and randomly select one on Monday, June 6th, which is one week away and announce the winner the same day. I promise to mail the prize on my next weekday off on Tuesday, June 7th.

Good Luck!

And again, thank you!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Recent Quatrefoil Purchases

I love quatrefoils.

They remind me of art history and Venice...

In addition to the Italy connection, I like that it's a classic motif that is both simple and bold.

Inspiration: Quatrefoils front and center in J's photo of the Ca d'Oro in Venice.

Quatrefoil Earrings from petitehermine's etsy shop.

Instead of being rounded, they actually have edges to them. I love that.

Quatrefoil Mirror from Target

(I didn't approve of my personal photography so here's the credit.)

I currently have hanging it over my jewelry armoire.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

*time to celebrate*

I had another very successful work day today! Cheers to me!

I have off Monday!
And I'll be paid for it!
This is a first for me.
You see, in retail, you have no choice but to work extended hours on a holiday.
I'm soo glad to be out of retail!

Have a fabulous holiday weekend!
...because with Sunday and Monday off, I will too!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New York City Trip

J and I went up to New York City for me to meet my Italian penpal B. We've been writing for five years and have not yet met. It was so great to meet her! She loves New York! ...and I hope she'll return to America to visit my neck of the woods!

After arriving at Penn Station via train, J and I walked to Eataly, the Italian marketplace and restaurant complex. After browsing around, we had lunch at the pasta and pizza place. We dipped our bread into very flavorful olive oil and each enjoyed a glass of Chianti Classico that had Batali's name on it. As an entree, J got this huge pizza which was three kinds of pizza in one slab:

And I got a pasta dish called Penne Napoli which was penne cooked al dente in a tomato sauce with chunks of buffalo mozzarella and shredded basil:

The is the first time that I've found meals like what you would find in Italy served in America. I was truly in awe. After that, I convinced J (yes, even after that pizza) to go get gelato. In trying to locate that counter, that's when we ran into B. The gelato was very good, but not as good as in Italy...

B and I hit the Victoria's Secret and met up with many of the Italian girls she was traveling with. I told them that all American women love VS. After that, we crossed the street to the (also very American) Macy's. They were keen on the cheap prices on designer brand clothing, which that Macy's has an abundance of. It is huge! I probably didn't even check out half of it... I suppose they've been jamming their days full with sightseeing and this was the perfect thing to do that day.

J and I had to catch our train after that. It was a short trip but, still, very very worth it to meet B. Eataly was my kind of place!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I Love From The Book "Bonjour, Happiness!"

I loved the book Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre by Jamie Cat Callan. In addition to sharing her own experiences, this American woman who idolized her French grandmother interviewed many French women on the topic of what makes them happy and elaborated on their thoughts in this really good book. Once you live in or love another country, your values often shift. After living in Italy, mine certainly did! Much more Mediterranean... Same for the author, who always wanted to be more French. I think American women have a lot to learn from the French and this book, like the following...

Callan basically says that happiness is an experience, a shared moment with others that one appreciates. "It's about being present and alive in the ordinary moment" (9). This is a conscious choice to appreciate life and its simple pleasures (13). In fact, she urges her readers to enjoy everyday tasks. Everything one does is a choice and is capable to contributing to happiness. She recommends connecting with others in the everyday as well. For example, a good farmers' market is particularly perfect for this.

Especially in the ordinary, she also recommends being unique. A woman can wear a signature item for example. Callan does also touch on French style which I love, especially the lesson of making an effort to dress. In addition, the author admires older French women who fill their home with fresh flowers and original art (27). ...which I'm doing right now! Make an effort, she implores, even if it's the little touches like buying yourself fresh flowers (111). When one truly appreciates the little things, you don't either need to value size it or buy multiples. Wear or use your nice things, just take care of them too! ...but, then again, buying stuff rarely leads to happiness. A fleeting experience is so much more satisfying than a material possession you purchase and have for awhile.

Take care of yourself too. The author recommends walking and taking the stairs for exercise. To take the stairs in heels, you have to concentrate and be present or else you'll fall down the flight! I love that she goes on with:

And of course, these stairs are mighty theatrical. Just imagine your husband or lover waiting for you at the bottom of these winding, curving, ornate stairs. And there you are--descending the steps seen from below in glimpses, flashes of leg and heels as you walk down and around, mysteriously coming in and out of view, disappearing, then reappearing, until you finally emerge. By the time you reach that bottom step, I would think this man would be in a state of enchantment (48).

The author is all about making an entrance. Be conscious that you're building anticipation. The click of high heels (or my loud low-heeled ballet flats!) announce your arrival. Dress in a way that creates confidence, even down to the lingerie ...just for you. People respond to confidence; it is the key.

I'm a fairly private person, surrounded by very public American women. I like that the author recognizes this self-containment as not only a means to intrigue others with mystery, but also to remain confident in knowing that their negative business isn't all over town (51). What a good point! It's a control thing. She also explains how one should seek balance in their life. Work, but take time to rest and do the things that make you happy.

Since the French love food, she explains why it, rightfully, is a source of happiness. If happiness is an experience, then food is one of the ultimate experiences! Food completely engages you. You taste, touch, smell, see, and even hear food (87). Baking a birthday cake for someone is an experience that connects you with the ones you love. There you go, a shared experience, happiness. One can even take it to the next level when it becomes a lovely tradition.

The French live in moderation, even down to their judgments on things the author has noticed. Things do not have to be so black and white. They also eat moderately. Their bodies tell them if their weight has fluctuated, not the bathroom scale. Even if they have gained, they respect their bodies and actually work on it. It's not the end of the world, nor the end of the discussion. Their daily diet requires daily decisions to do what's right for themselves in the long run. If they strayed a bit too far, they're not too far from getting back on track. Apparently curvy Frenchwomen don't give up on their look like so many obese American women seem to. They would never! They appreciate beauty too much ...and maybe know that others do too.

So, go out and buy or borrow this book! Even though it's new, I found it at my local library this time last week. ...and then truly experience life!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

fresh flowers

*fresh flowers on my nightstand*

...hopefully the first of many!

...even though this vase and particular bouquet is too big for my small nightstand and its lamp; now I know! I may also try more fragrant flowers in the future.

(The book is Bonjour, Happiness: Secrets to Finding Your Joie de Vivre by Jamie Cat Callan.
I've read it once and want to skim it again! I may share my review of it later.)

(I also love my birthday gift from my Italy travel buddy J, that small blue piece of murano glass, it's a bead of water with two goldfish inside. So happy to own one now since I regretted not buying one myself in Venice.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

three terrific things

I had a very successful day at work today! Cheers to me!

My Italian penpal is arriving in America today! Welcome to her!

I am approaching my 100th post! I plan to do a fabulous 100-themed giveaway. Yay for you! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

behind in the times

I am looking forward to upgrading to my first smartphone sometime before August. As this thought sinks in more and more recently, I am increasingly embarassed by my little red Nokia flip phone that I've had for the past 18 months. I would love to become even more independent, break free from my family plan and have a two-year contract of my own.

Since this has been a long time comin', I am pretty much set on a BlackBerry, despite nearly everyone's protests and encouragement to score the latest touch screen one. After some quick research (as I'm pretty decisive), I've decided on the BlackBerry Curve 3G. It has wifi, 3G internet, GPS, a nice keyboard (from the pictures at least), apps for fun travel info, and good solid reviews. After seeing the one on, I would love the red one! ...but I can't find it on the stores' websites. seems to only be available in the UK. Maybe it's available in stores? You know me and my deep red accessories... Does anyone know when/ where I can find the red one? If not, oh well, I'll take it in charcoal gray.

I've had AT&T for years. ...and I'm completely fine with it as it hasn't caused me any problems. ...and since this recent commercial is kinda cool:

I took this from the blog It's Five O'Clock Somewhere.

But, honestly, I don't know much about service. I need help. Which one should I go with?


Just for fun-- this is my favorite flash mob youTube video:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Memory of Ann

fotos taken at Fiesta

I just attended a memorial service for my former co-worker Ann. Her ashes were spread off the pier at her longtime beautiful waterfront residence she shared with a few roommates. The pastor encouraged those in attendance to share personal memories, as a way to heal, and a few people did. However, since I'm not big on public speaking, I thought I would share my memories here instead.

I worked with Ann at RoomStore Furniture. We were among the salespeople. She was an older member of the main clique of 'em and I really wanted her to like me. And I think she did, with one particular memory as evidence. I remember telling Ann that I liked her earrings one day, and maybe it was slow and I saw how they caught the light; I gave her a second compliment on them. With that, she promptly took them off and gave them to me. I protested because in recent memory she forgot to wear earrings one day, so off she went to the dollar store next door and bought a pair just so she didn't have to go without a day. Despite my protest, she insisted I have them. (In my minimalist efforts, I have since donated them. The right decision at the time, but also a shame now...)

She was British (imagine a British accent saying "from Yorkshire" here) and very frank. Most of the time she was a serious woman, but I also remember her laugh, a fit of giggles really. She was fiercely independent and stubbornly took risks despite what anyone else thought and had the subsequent stories ...and I admired her for it.

I only worked there for the year of 2007. That was the height of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and we were only on commission so I eventually left for a job where I actually got paid. We didn't have many customers buying furniture for houses they couldn't really afford, so our team of about a dozen salespeople spent most of many, many days talking and telling jokes. All the jokes I tell (and can't tell!) are from them.

Anyway, Ann had amazing stories. Like at age 20, much to her parents dismay and bewilderment, she ran off to America alone. Every time she returned to England, she rebeled by returning to America. She became a longtime nanny to four children. One day the father asked her to waitress a private formal dinner. Ann agreed. Imagine her surpise when the President of Mexico was one of the guests! A bit nervous, she managed to not mess up the whole meal, until the after dinner coffee when she accidentally spilled a tray full of cups of coffee all over the President! Isn't that quite the story? She also loved Victorian literature. Apparently the protagonists often go on safari. So she too went to Kenya to waitress at a hotel for awhile to be there and have a safari of her own. I would love to have stories like that, something like that anyway!

To further occupy her time at work, she read and solved crossword puzzles. I can still picture her seated at her desk in her gray jacket, glasses down her nose, head bent over a crossword puzzle within her portfolio in her lap. I remember her asking me for the artist Matisse's first name since back then I was in between art history programs. H-E-N-R-I. She would talk about her lovely garden which snaked around the house. Plus her pond that the current residents are keeping up in her honor.

Since I started in January, I heard about "Fiesta" at work for months, until it finally took place later in the summer. By that time, I so wanted to go! I think I've gone a few times since. "Fiesta" is Spanish for "party" and it's called that because Ann's roommate G is Colombian. It's a big party including lots of latinos. This truly is the party of the year! I want to throw a legendary party once  in my life and so far Fiesta is the best example, the best party I've ever attended. It's at that stunningly beautiful waterfront house, in the backyard, between a boat full of wine, beer and Colombian firewater and the regulation bocce ball court. It's a cookout and fun with my hilarious co-workers. I thoroughly enjoy myself. I usually have a designated driver or someone pick me up. Since G is a nurse, she collects medical supplies and donations to benefit the impoverished children of Colombia. In fact, one year admission was a bottle of vitamins. She normally conducts a silent auction of handmade Colombian goods. The best thing being a colorful hammock.

The memorial service was on this very lawn and on the pier. A pastor stood in front of us and spoke. A few people also spoke up. It was fun to hear about Ann's early family life. Even though the temperature was only in the mid-seventies, I felt very warm in the sun in my black outfit and had actually started to black out, I unfortunately was nearly ready to faint when the people surrounding me noticed how pale I was, maybe after I dropped my program. One of the very hospitable roommates let me sit down in the house and gave me some water. I was so angry at myself, that I could not remain standing outside! Hm, oh well... I only missed a reading and a prayer, came back out the minute I stopped sweating profusely. Everyone was asking me if I was okay, which you know is sweet but simply unwanted attention. I do not handle the heat well. I'll be sure to tell my doctor at my next physical. (I have health insurance as of June 1st!) I wonder if, despite having a huge family history of high blood pressure, I suffer from it being too low... I also have to have my car's air conditioning fixed! People could potentially die from heatstroke. Anyway, I was teary throughout. It was small and intimate, so sad, and she was only 68. I remember her turning 65, retirement age, back in 2007 so that was three and a half years ago.

I'll miss you Ann! I'll try and live a life of beauty and adventure too, even if I'm stubborn in the process!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Michelle's 27 Things I Know For Sure

Grazie to Kristi at La Bella Figura whose most recent blog recommendation led me to The Simply Luxurious Life and more specifically to the author Shannon's post entitled "26 Things I Know For Sure." I credit them both for the inspiration to create my own list. I love her list, and wholeheartedly agree with every single item! In fact, I should take Shannon's advice and bring fresh flowers into my home. Since I have different life experiences, here's my personal list. I chose to have a total of 27 points because I am newly 27 years old, love marking my birthday, and figure I could give one life lesson for each year I've been around.

fresh flowers. love.

Michelle's 27 Things I Know For Sure:

1. Do not accrue credit card debt.

2. Travel.

Piazza Erbe in Verona, Italy
I enjoyed this piazza this past March.

3. Be open to learn and improve yourself. Everyday.

4. Celebrate birthdays. In a personalized way.

This year's birthday dinner location, Parc, a French restaurant in Philadelphia.

5. Do not follow trends, instead cultivate your own personal style. Not only on your person but also in your home.

My birthday shoes (...that arrived after my birthday festivities.)
I currently love this deep red color,
especially as a pop of saturated color to a neutral outfit of classic pieces.

6. Know what styles look good on your body.

7. Have goals and the gumption to work towards them.

8. Be courageous and confident enough to say what you want or who you are aloud or to an audience. ...and be it. Confidence is key. I am attracted to people who are very much themselves.

9. Indulge every once in awhile. In whatever strikes your fancy, but do it sporadically. Trust me you appreciate it more when it's not a regular habit.

drinking red wine, going out with friends, ...

10. Do a fantastic job, even if no one else is or it goes unappreciated. Do it for self-satisfaction. And not just at your workplace!

11. Be nice. (Thanks Mom)

12. Purchase items of the highest quality you can afford.

13. Give to charity, even if it's simply unused clutter or just ten bucks.

14. Nurture your close, long-term friendships.

15. Eat good food.

16. Get out of any relationship or friendship you need to or that does not have a future.

17. Declutter and then treat the items you love and use respectfully.

18. Attend college. I highly recommend going away to a four-year institution and graduating, but at least attend a few classes on a physical campus!

19. Love yourself as much as possible.

20. Dress up for dinner out, or happy hour, or a holiday dinner with family, or a date, or any special occasion!

my favorite evening clutch

21. Always bring something to a party.

22. Always apply makeup before leaving the house. Put your best foot forward. Fare la bella figura (literally "to make a good figure" in Italian).

23. Celebrate the little things.

hot chocolate in a cute cup on a winter day

24. Spontaneously do something sweet for someone.

25. Take care of your health.

26. Be passionate. Lead a passionate life.

be passionate

27. Consciously choose to be happy and make it happen for yourself, depend on no one else for this.

Photo Credits: one, twothree, four, five, sixseven, eight

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Girlfriend Getaway

The Hard Rock Cafe and Barnes & Noble share this building.
It was a rainy day, just like in this photo.

I visited Baltimore's Inner Harbor with my two longtime friends today. We were celebrating my birthday together.

I chose to have lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, which was fun. Even though it was no longer on the menu, the bar was able to make me a margarita with blood orange syrup. It's my most favorite margarita, so delicious, so smooth! I thoroughly enjoyed it. After that, we browsed the Barnes & Noble next door. Both establishments are located in a huge historic building, the Power Plant.

I also chose to hit Harborplace which is a multi-building complex of eateries, shops, and entertainment venues, lining the harbor of course and right next to the old Power Plant. I splurged at a shop called Fire & Ice, which sells unique jewelry. I had admired the same dark pink ruby pieces of jewelry in multiple locations. I first spotted them in their Philadelphia store last August and then again in the DC location last month. I finally made the purchase today! I selected a necklace and a matching pair of stud earrings in this stunning color, my favorite color. They are round cut stones set in silver. Bold yet simple. Shopping with girlfriends was fun too. Plenty of girl talk. Some shop talk too, since one of them is in the same field as me.

The forecast said it would be cloudy but it unfortunately drizzled the whole time! I'm not a girl who enjoys the rain, so I just neglected to take pictures, sorry! And it was too cold for a skirt... It's been a rainy spring, with no end in sight! Plus, the temperatures are all over the place. And with this crazy weather, you never know if 70 degrees is going to feel cool or warm. As always, layers are key for travel! I was happy to have had a little lightweight umbrella today too.