Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reflecting on New Year's Resolutions

I am reflecting on my progress of my New Year's Resolutions two full months into the year on this Leap Day. (I love this special day, I hope I do something out-of-the-ordinary in celebration!)

To review, this year I resolved:

1. To diligently work towards the life I want.
I just noticed a shift this week. I always wanted to live in Italy again and have been using the word "when" instead of "if" with my parents to get them used to the idea, but I think it finally and really settled into my own mindset too! I will really be an expat in Italy one day; that's one of things I want in life and know will make me happy. Hopefully, I will make this happen in the next decade. To do so, I need to get out of debt as well as create savings. For that, I need to overhaul my life, which is fine. I need to lower by expenses by changing my living situation. Living alone in an apartment home is my dream come true and I am truly cherishing it at the moment. It was also my choice; I am aware that I put myself in this situation. As a short-term solution, I have asked my sister to move in, but, unfortunately, she declined. I hope to land a job in the International Education field. On the field's professional listserv, there are the most job vacancies in the spring and summer, which is coming up! Maybe if I have to relocate for a job, I will move in with roommates, and thus pay less rent. I can use the money I'm no longer dedicating to rent to pay down debt. I feel like I could starting to be ready for a big change.

Particularly poverty-stricken this week, I have revised my resume, so I can apply for part-time employment soon, for right now (and now that my workplace is fully-staffed and thus more stable). (As of this post, I handed it in once to hear that they're not hiring.) I am trying to be positive in my current situation, seeing that I have personally created a beautiful home and full life from little money and learning every single day to live with less (and very little!). I know this frugality will serve me well later in life, that it allows for a better life. When I do spend, I appreciate the thing or experience more when I don't have it so often. I cannot wait 'til my birthday weekend in Boston! This attitude does make me want less, but so often and overall it does not feel like it. I still want want want. It's okay if my lifestyle does not change the fact that I am fundamentally a spender; I simply do not wish to ever be in such debt that it prohibits me from doing what I want to do in life again. Thank God for good books from the library. (My current read is Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart.) And for the generosity of others. And for daydreaming to get me through.

Another thing is, I haven't cracked open my old Italian textbook yet to relearn the basics. I'll do this in March.

2. To live a more chic life.
I wanted to get up earlier and have breakfast each morning and I actually have, for weeks now! As a result, I feel more alert each day. It's easier to get up earlier when it's consistent. After waking, I make myself presentable for the day, so I can be up for anything and look good doing it! It's very Italian to always look your best, fare la bella figura (to make a good figure). At the end of the day, I've been trying to add more to my nightly beauty routine. I purchased a new pore-minimizing/ exfoliating cleanser sometime in January, and in addition to washing my makeup off with soap, have been using it a lot lately. I also have been trying to use mouthwash after each time I brush my teeth. My next step would be to start flossing with any regularity at all. I also have been washing dishes sooner than I have before. This is the chore I hate and most often procrasinate on. The rest of my apartment always looks great! I pride myself on taking care of what matters.

Ideally, I want to look as polished as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge does, everyday!

On a side note, this image reminds me of one of the latest posts on one of the blogs I follow, The Simply Luxurious Life. In this wonderful post about intentionally creating yourself, she cites Catherine as an example. Read this amazing advice here.

Also, in hopes of learning more about Catherine (no longer Kate!), I devoured two books on Will and Kate's relationship recently! I adore her.

3. To blog more frequently.
This is the fourth day in a row that I posted! Are you falling off your chair? Having a weekly series (Style Sunday) helps, makes me post. Again, cultivating good habits works. Since I write about my values-based lifestyle, it holds me accountable in keeping these personal development resolutions, which is great.

I'll keep you guys updated on my progress.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Morning Routines

Since about the New Year, I have started the day with an espresso in its little cup and saucer. I sweeten mine with a spoonful of sugar. Since Saturday, I've had it with another Italian treat, biscotti. I just picked up a box of 8 individually-wrapped chocolate slices with almonds and the bottom dipped in more chocolate at my local grocery store, on sale for $2.50, and tried them; they're pretty good. I try to eat something with the espresso but I don't always have breakfast funding. Just an espresso is a very Italian breakfast. Caffeine truly affects me and a shot of espresso makes me more productive and enthusiastic all day, which is helpful as I am basically a salesperson/ marketing director/ customer service representative from 9 to 5.

Also in the morning, I'll been getting up at around the same time every day since about mid-January. I need to get out of bed at 7 or earlier on work days and have been rising sometime in the second half of the 6 o'clock hour. I've been pretty successful... Making something a habit is the key. It's much easier to get up when I make it a routine. Even on my days off, I am throwing off the covers on or before 8 AM. The world belongs to the early-risers ...or at least that's what I tell myself... From about the time stores open, I would be dressed and be looking presentable and just be up for anything during the day.

Rising early with the fact that I keep myself busy means I have been finding myself exhausted at bedtime, instead of looking at the clock and thinking it's about time I turned in, like so often before. I'm probably fitting more into my day! Maybe this regular sleep schedule does help with my chronic insomnia... It's something I've always dealt with (using helpful measures, sure) and have learned to live with. I know I can function well on little sleep. However, a good night's sleep is important and could be news the next day! Not that I would be completely against occasionally throwing this effective routine out the window and sleeping in for hours, it is nice. Or with this insomniac, just staying under the covers. ...the day can't really start without me, right?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinterest: 100th Pin

I <3 Pinterest!

You've heard of this, right? "Pinterest is a virtual pinboard." You post/pin photos from the internet on your own folders or "boards." I love having my collection of inspiration and aesthetics organized. I am also constantly inspired by the other creative pinners. Plus, it's social. Do you pin? If you're not on it already and interested in membership, it's by invitation only and I can send one your way, just let me know. I actually joined after reading about it on a couple of blogs.

Anyway, I just pinned my 100th image. This one:

Shelley over at Un'americana a Roma recently blogged (again, and rightfully so!) about this "heavenly" find. (Read it here.) It's an espresso with chocolate in it and cream and cocoa on top. She discovered it at Cafffe Camerino in Rome. I would love to try it and thought it was beautiful, so I pinned it onto my "Italia" board.

In addition to my "Italia" board, I have six other ones. I pin photos of clinking wine glasses in a toast like this one onto "Cin Cin!:" 

["Cin cin!" is what Italians say to toast.]

...and really fun things like these [among more sophisticated selections, trust me!] go to "Entertaining:"



...and my fourth board is "Home Decor" for future home style inspiration like this:

...and I collect images concerning travel to everywhere else but Italy on the board entitled "World Traveler:"

...and recently I added the board called "Style: Clothing + Accessories" with its pins like this one:

...and I've only virtually tacked a single image to my last board I titled "Motivation" so far.

You can search for and "follow" me and my boards. Under "People," I can be found using the same identifying information I have here: Michelle from Maryland and the handle "italiagal." And could be found by pin or board using the details above.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Style Sunday: Birthday Gift To Be

This is what I want to buy for myself on my birthday:

I love love love the dark pink color of these azaleas.
I want to plant a bright bush of my own picking in a terra cotta pot and put it out on my balcony.

7 Weeks 'Til My Birthday (...and my weekend in Boston!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"She holds you captivated in her path."

Today's title is from the song "Suddenly I See" by KT Tunstall. I've always loved it.

My Italian Sunday Dinner the Sunday before last went so well! The four of us had such a great time, one of whom, my friend's boyfriend, I met for the first time. In addition, two of my friends from different circles of mine were meeting for the first time and they liked each other just fine. One of my guests talked about her recent trip to India. And the food turned out (...minus the chicken ...but even with multiple courses of food and fun with friends, it just didn't seem to matter...). Overall, this meal was fairly easy to pull off. I love to entertain! I wish I had the funds to make this some sort of routine!

As you can see, I went all out in setting the table:

In my personal photo above, I have a bowl on top of a dinner plate on top of a silver charger, with a bread plate to the side, in front of each seat. All are my everyday china, white with a raised rim of dots, service for four and the only set I own. Silverware sits on a red cloth napkin. A stemmed red wine glass complete each setting. I have white tea lights lit inside antique clear depression glass punch glasses in the middle of my small table. All this sits on a plain white tablecloth.

I also hung a string of clear round glass white lights over the table. Going for the theme, they feel Italian to me. I had to set the primo and secondo on the printer stand because my table is so tiny. I had the antipasti on a bright Deruta-like platter. The four of us squeezed in on my sofa and munched on antipasti over my coffee table. I love a good theme; it's just more festive.

My menu was:

a loaf of French bread sliced
extra virgin olive oil

Primo Piatto (First Course)
Penne Pasta Primavera (Penne pasta with vegetables in tomato sauce with sauteed zucchini and red pepper.)

Secondo Piatto (Second Course)
roasted chicken with rosemary
olive-oil roasted gold potatoes with a touch of rosemary
Contorni (Vegetables)
sauteed spinach with garlic

Dolce (Dessert)
Sicilian-style cheesecake (my guests made this using ricotta)
4 Ferrero Rocher chocolates
Vino (one of my guests brought a couple of bottles)
Da Vinci Chianti
a sweet red wine
After work on Monday night, one of those same dinner guests and I went out to see selected scenes of opera as produced by the Army. A few singers acted and sang a single scene of an act in various works of opera to the accompaniment of the piano. The voices were so impressive and the stories behind opera are oh so dramatic and entertaining. I could even pick out a few words of Italian in the opera composed in that particular language. I really enjoyed myself. This sampler of sorts leaves me wanting more, makes me want to see an opera at La Scala in Milano or at the Arena in Verona! In this low budget affair, the MC teased us that we had to use our imagination for the scenery and props, like that a music stand was a tree. Such a visual individual, I would love to see the scenery and costumes of a real production. And one in Italian of course! It was also fun to dress up for an occasion. And to meet new people, as I met my date's ("cool") cousins.
Today is my day off and it's been pretty good so far. I enjoyed my usual little cup of espresso with sugar, picked out three new books from the library, walked a mile for exercise in the sunshine, saw and caught up with a friend for just a bit, made myself a healthy lunch using whole grain pasta, picked up a slice of chocolate cake and enjoyed the majority of that for dessert, vacuumed my apartment real quick, read awhile, made doctor's appointments for routine bloodwork and a physical. I really need to check things off my to do list... I wonder if I will accomplish much more today... This post is one of them I suppose... I already had a pretty restful day on Sunday where I didn't do much! My boss asked what I did on Sunday in some small talk and I replied "bel far niente" which is Italian for "the beauty of doing nothing," which she loved. I must say, so did I. It helps to restore me since I keep myself fairly busy. Not everyone has such balance in their lives.
My new boss is working today. It keeps changing, but, I think, she's with me full-time from today on. I like her. Since she's been in a place where she didn't want to be promoted, I think I'll actually do the job I was hired to do a year ago and not the oh so much more I've been doing since day number two. That'll be less stress and I'll be happier. Maybe I'll blog more as a result! Plus she even suggested that I take Monday as my day off each week. Since the office is closed on Sunday, that means I'll have two days off in a row! This thrills me! I can really relax. Plus with a set day of the week off, I have already scheduled appointments, with less worry that I will probably reschedule. When she mentioned that she'd be willing to work a Saturday every once in awhile, I think I was momentarily speechless. I managed to tell her just for my April birthday weekend for now. Not that I would know what to do with myself on a Saturday having been in retail for so long when you work weekends.
With regards to my never-ending to do list, maybe I'll see how I feel after I finish dinner. I'm preparing that pasta specialty of mine again, senza meat, it's low budget! No red wine though... :( At no cost at all to me, I lucked out with my mom's invitation to dinner last night- roast beef with potatoes and carrots and sweetened tea to drink. Having a meal a week over there helps me out financially. As you can tell, I love to eat! I had a craving for the tangy tomato salad dressing from Outback Steakhouse a night last week. Who's with me?
My Pasta Specialty:
Penne Pasta in Tomato Sauce with Sauteed Zucchini and Red Pepper

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Style Sunday: Skirt and Sneak Peek

I want this skirt:

This A-line skirt seems like it would be a more flattering fit
than my current shorter, straight-cut jean skirt hanging in my closet.

I will post about my Italian Sunday Dinner party that I hosted last weekend soon! Here's a preview:

Set for Sunday Dinner

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Style Sunday: Royal Style

Kate at the National Portrait Gallery's Lucian Freud Exhibit

I think Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is the most beautiful woman on the planet. And I adore her style choices, including this coat dress and pair of classic black pumps that she recently wore while viewing art. Flattering and sophisticated. Polished. ...just like those former Art Historians, you know... Who could be a more perfect style icon for me?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Style Sunday: Spring Style

I have found the following things in some recent online browsing. As you will see, I am so ready for spring.

I would love a pair or two of this dark wash blue jean capri without cuffs. I prefer a darker wash for a more polished look. I also like that the stitching blends in with the denim, instead of the gold thread being used. I am very loyal to the Levi's brand. Two of these would replace my two pairs that are cuffed, which is simply a bit more bulk than necessary.

I love a ballet flat, especially with a cap toe. This shoe looks like it might cover my long toes; I'm just not a fan of toe cleavage. (There's also a pewter ballet flat with a pewter toe cap at Kenneth Cole, but that one looks like it would show the creases in between my toes.)

The search for the perfect tee is on. Perhaps this dark red one from Target? I wonder if this is more red or burgundy in person... I am so picky with cut and color. Target, H&M and Ann Taylor Loft have had both flattering and affordable ones in recent years. Based on my budget, I'll only pick up one or two this season.

I realize that these are more basic items for everyday, but ones I will likely purchase (if I still like them seeing them in person). When more spring dresses and flirty skirts come out, I will post an item with beautiful details that I will consider adding to my wardrobe. Or, you know, have to have...
I can't wait to wear these cool weather clothes. With the best clothes, comfortable temperatures for my favorite activity- travel, my birthday and flowers in bloom, spring is my favorite season.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Respect is about treating others how you want to be treated. It is considerate treatment of both yourself and anyone or anything other than you.

As a considerate individual, I'm all about respect and have been especially frustrated with a lot of disrespect lately, hence this following advice...

10 Ways to Show Respect:

1. Go to appointments.
2. Contact the person you're meeting prior to the appointment time if unable to make it at all or on time.
3. Be on time. If you are late, you are saying that your time is more important than someone else's.
4. Don't hang up on someone. Even if you're not interested, at least quickly state that you are not interested and a salutation before hanging up.
5. Don't ignore people. Even if you're not interested in, say, a salesperson's pitch, look the speaker in the eye, say "no thanks" and move on.
6. Turn off or silence your cell phone when necessary, appropriate, after asked and not the entire time you're in a small store with an attentive salesperson.
7. Take care of yourself and your things and especially things you are borrowing from someone else. Return borrowed items in a timely manner.
8. Clean up after yourself, especially when living with others.
9. Do not be excessively noisy, especially when living close to others in an apartment building.
10. Be nice. Do not be mean, out loud, on purpose.