Monday, July 30, 2012

An Update on My Day Off

I scored a part-time job today! I had spoken with the very new manager at my former workplace, a name brand luggage store, a couple of times recently. This morning, I visited her at the appointed time and submitted an application for part-time employment. I do not want to return to retail, but, alas, need the additional income to pay my bills. If I had to choose any part-time gig, then I would choose this one I suppose. I like selling luggage. I plan to work open to close every Sunday if this manager will entertain that, and just a bit more if she needs me. My family promised me a ride every Sunday since my car lacks air conditioning. With two more paychecks a month, it'll be nice to have my bills paid in full and on time again and not have to worry about that. 

I visited the library this afternoon. Among the books I checked out is "Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome" by Luca Spaghetti. Do you remember this character from Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Eat Pray Love" and its film adaptation? Honestly, I remember this joyful character more in the movie... Especially the scene where Julia Roberts's character Liz meets him in the barbershop. "You don't know pleasure!" It's a book by him! How fun is that? Fun, I tell you. I'm already cracking up and am only on page 8. I've been wanting to read an Italian travel narrative or something like this lately. Unfortunately, if they're not available in my local library system, I cannot even afford them on Amazon. Anyway, I hope it gives me more inspiration for blog posts with an Italian slant.

I also quickly caught up with my friend who works at my local library until a patron walked up with a question. I hope to truly catch up with her soon. She works here, but lives far far away. I'm honored by her invitation to visit her, but simply can't afford anything right now. Maybe she can stay at my apartment in between two work shifts... saving herself a couple commutes. So we can hang out sooner rather than later.

I've been watching quite a bit of the Olympics. It's kind of addicting, isn't it? I learn a lot about all the different sports. The games must have been distracting because the biggest event in town, the annual carnival, snuck up on me. I hope to head over for a pit beef sandwich one evening this week. I enjoyed a scoop of ice cream on a waffle cone this afternoon too. Summer food gets me in the most trouble, way more than the feasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Luckily, I exercise moderation most times! I hope everyone else is thoroughly enjoying all that summer has to offer too.

Speaking of addicting, I have over 400 pins on my Pinterest account! Click the Pinterest button on the right sidebar to view them. Definitely check out the Italia board! This is just one of the Italian (and summery) images I've collected recently...

Right before I was about to click "Publish," my apartment community's mailman knocked on my door and delivered a box from one of my friends who just visited, F. She is very talented in terms of arts and crafts, so I am most excited to open something from her. I unwrapped this framed piece of embroidery...

Isn't it fantastic? I love it! I'm touched. Grazie F! I also loved that it arrived as a surprise.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Things To Do: Summer 2012 Edition: Update and My Vacation Days

Back in this post, I listed 13 things I wanted to do this summer and have done many of them already! Plus, I'm working on even more!

To remind you, in this previous post, I checked off...

6. have a professional pedicure and then show it off in strappy sandals

I took three vacation days this week to host my two college girlfriends B and F from out-of-town. Staying for three days three nights, I entertained them from Tuesday afternoon 'til Friday morning before heading back to work. We had such a good time!

Anyway, on this vacation, I accomplished many more, including...

1. savor red red tomatoes selected at a farmer's market

I bought a couple of large and a pint full of grape tomatoes from a nearby farm stand a couple of days before my friends arrived and have been enjoying them since. So red and ripe, they are almost gone now. I used the grape-sized ones in a pasta salad, in garden salads, and offered them as part of an appetizer. I sliced the larger variety and served it as a side, even enjoying a thick slice seasoned with salt and pepper tonight.

Another activity on both my vacation and my must do list...

2. sip margaritas on my balcony with my girlfriends visiting during the middle of July

After B and F had both arrived, we really enjoyed delicious blood orange margaritas on my balcony. (I discovered the sweet blood orange in Italy, which is in season in March.) I served them in my red spiral margarita glasses from Pier 1 Imports. B brought the blood orange juice and I had purchased tequila, Grand Marnier, limes and margarita salt in preparation for this glorious event. We also killed a bag of tortilla chips and a jar of salsa! I couldn't imagine a better way to start off our little reunion. 

Next, I grilled some burgers and served my new signature pasta salad for dinner. This summery side is another item on my fun To Do list.

9. create a pasta salad to be a signature of mine

(I will take a picture of my creation next time!)

My new pasta salad debuted with rave reviews at a family dinner on the 4th of July. Changing it just a teeny bit the second time around, I chopped each vegetable a different size this time, making it more colorful. (It takes less time than finely chopping everything too!) I'm satisfied with it now. I used rotini pasta, a red, yellow and green bell pepper, a red onion, Italian flat leaf parsley, grape tomatoes with Kraft Zesty Italian dressing and freshly-ground black pepper.

For dessert,...

5. go for a snowball with friends

This was actually more of a local specialty for my out-of-town friends. It's very popular in my hometown anyway. It seems there's a snowball stand on every corner. I directed them to the stand my local friends recommended and introduced me to and thoroughly enjoyed my favorite there again, root beer. B even tried her flavor choice with (liquid) marshmallow. 

The next day, we hit a beach about a half an hour's drive away. Another item on the list... check!

3. have a perfect beach or pool day

Photo Credit to B

This is the clay-colored sand and the view of the Bay Bridge spanning the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park.

Photo Credit to B

It was nice to work on my tan for a couple of hours on one of those very hot days this summer. We relaxed reading magazines. This was my first opportunity to wear my new swimsuit! I also sported my pink sarong selected from a stand at Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks Florence, Italy back in the spring of 2005.

After our time at the beach, the ladies and I ate lunch at my favorite local diner and then visited a Maryland winery, Boordy Vineyards. Each of us got to choose six wines to sample in their tasting. Even though it wasn't the right time for a tour, the employee gave us a quick one anyway. B and I drink wine regularly, but this was F's first wine tasting, so all of us had a good time. Certainly since the samples here were generous!

At the tasting, we stood in front of this row of offerings.

Back at my apartment, B made us a delicious steak dinner. Served with wine of course. She also had brought brownies she baked that were so decadent they were almost fudge! We ended the stormy night with a viewing of Letters to Juliet (which is mainly set in Italy).

The next day, we started the day with a visit to Baltimore, Maryland also known as Charm City. So, I get to cross the following off my fun little list...

4. go out of town (even if just for the day or an evening, even if just to Annapolis or Baltimore)

We explored the neighborhoods called the Inner Harbor and Little Italy. First, we browsed and shopped at the complex called Harborplace. There, I introduced them to the amazing Fire & Ice jewelry store. I think we hit every souvenir shop, delighting in the fun (Chesapeake Bay) crab items for sale. Next, we dined at the Hard Rock Cafe, which is in a historic building, the Power Plant. 

Photo Credit to B

For dessert, we patronized the Italian pastry shop called Vaccaro's in Little Italy. Primarily selling and known for dessert, they offer generous portions of cookies, cakes, cannoli, pastries, and gelato. I enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake with hazelnut-flavored cream. Everything was (and is) delicious! They even have my favorite gelato flavor and call it by its Italian name, Baci! This is chocolate and hazelnut. (Considering my choice, I suppose that's a good combo for me! And if you like Nutella, then for you too!) If you're in Baltimore, I recommend it!

B's Photo Again

My Personal Photo

A large selection of cookies. time...

After a successful shopping trip to the Ikea in College Park, Maryland, it was F's turn to make dinner. She grilled tasty teriyaki chicken. We also had a number of side dishes to finish off! And wine of course. We recorded each bottle we enjoyed in B and her husband N's beloved wine journal. Descriptions are usually quirky, so that added to the fun. 

Those are just the highlights! I believe that the three of us had such a fabulous time that this may become an annual event.

And with this checklist being such a success, maybe I should create one for every season, ensuring I truly celebrate each time of the year, not letting it slip by unmarked. It's nice to have a plan.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Style Sunday: A Oui Bit of Red

I recently purchased the OPI nail lacquer A Oui Bit of Red.

It's a red polish with dark pink shimmer. Painted on toenails, it simply looks red and I couldn't be happier with it! I gave myself a pedicure before my girlfriends and I painted the town red. Details soon!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Style Sunday: French Balcony

In my daydreaming of living in Italy lately, I've been picturing a home with a French or Juliet balcony; you know... double doors with shutters that open onto a balcony with railings of fancy ironwork. Typically, this balcony only protrudes about a foot from the building. It seems very European... However, I prefer a balcony large enough to accommodate a bistro set and my beloved plants in terra cotta pots, a place where I could sit and enjoy an outdoor space. I suppose I am a typical American in this case, wanting more space.

The doors of this French apartment lead out to a long balcony...

I'll happily settle for my own lovely balcony for now though. I've recently put up a couple strings of lights with colored glass bulbs along my balcony railing to make it more festive for sipping blood orange margaritas with visiting friends this week. I can't wait!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Margie of the blog margieinitaly nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger Award! I have to say, it is a bit of a shock! I love my little blog, but I didn't think it is worth an award based on the value of inspiration for others. Thank you! Grazie mille! (Literally "Thanks a thousand!") I'll try my best to believe you and make my little journal deserving of such an honor! This is actually my 200th post and this is quite the unexpected celebration for it. I love a good surprise.

Have you guys been following Margie? If not, do! Now's the perfect time to start since this Italian-American has recently returned from a fabulous trip to Italy as well as a bit of Spain and France. She describes and delights in everyday aspects and items of Italian life. I also pin her beautiful photography of Italy. Do not miss her "Photo Collage of Food in Italy" for example. I simply adore her blog. Congratulations to you, Margie!

Additionally, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to highlight the other bloggers who inspire me on a daily basis.

The rules of receiving this award involve the following:

~Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post.

~Nominate 7 bloggers you admire.

~Share 7 things about yourself.

~Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they've been nominated.

I would like to nominate the following blogs and the authors behind them for inspiration:

1. An American in Italy- Karen lives a Firenze and what I love most about her blog is the engaging reporting of festivals and events that I've never even heard of! Italians love to party and I want this blogger to tell me what's good. Not only is she an amazing travel resource, she is a true inspiration for following your dreams. In fact, she includes the following quote underneath her title: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined." by Henry David Thoreau. What is more inspirational than that? In addition, her son just guest posted about his travel website, AbsoluteVisit, and I am looking forward to following that as well.

2. My Pretty Pennies- I have been following Ginna's blog longer than any other. It is more lifestyle now, and I thoroughly enjoy reading about her life including one of her roles as a newlywed, but originally it was primarily about personal finance. She became debt-free and chronicled the journey. She continues to write on the subject in her series entitled "Weekly Money Check-Up" and posts it every Monday. It is evident in this series that it's not all about money when she focuses about her budget. I am in a lot of debt myself and find her very inspiring. Furthermore, I also see a kindred spirit in that she is very goal-oriented.

3. Une Vie Chic- Kate is another Marylander, but she loves all things France. I am most attracted to people and friends who are confidently and unapologetically themselves like Kate. This is a lifestyle blog devoted to living well and I find that the blogger lives in a very chic way, even with life being "busy busy" as she is a new mother to "Lady Eleanor."

4. The Daily Connoisseur- I started following Jennifer L. Scott's blog while she was posting her 20 lessons learned while studying a semester abroad in Paris one-by-one. Specifically, she discovered these 'stylish secrets' from the mother of the host family she lived with, a woman she has refers to as Madame Chic. I simply adore her book Lessons from Madame Chic as well. In fact, I often reread a chapter or two in bed before I go to sleep. Her book is about to be re-released in November and I am considering working its cost into my budget. In both her blog and book, I constantly find inspiration on how to live well. I employ so many of her lessons in my daily life and am only working on incorporating more!

5. The Rich Life (on a budget)- Adrienne lives just as her title indicates in the stunningly beautiful Sonoma wine country of northern California. She has such a great and fun style, scoring fabulous pieces for small prices at that. I cannot wait for her post celebrating Coco Chanel next month! Among other subjects, she also writes on travel. Of note is this post about her recent vacation which included stay at an amazing villa outside Lucca, Italy! Definitely check out the amazing photography from her visit!

6. French Essence- Vicki Archer is yet another Francophile on this list and is fortunate to have a home in Saint Rémy de Provence in southern France. She serves as a major inspiration for me because I love her numerous and fabulous recommendations, despite frequent posting! Honestly, I have a book she recently recommended on my hold queue at my local library right now.

7. The Simply Luxurious Life- Shannon is the founder and editor of this endlessly inspirational blog. The Mission Statement is very inspiring alone! It provides ideas to live intentionally and work towards happiness within so many areas of life. A long list of archived articles can be found under the tab marked "inspiration and why not?" I enjoy her "Why Not...?" series where she offers advice on a particular topic. The posts are written at length on each subject, providing a thorough explanation. The founder maintains that luxury can be attained by anyone, one simply needs to pay attention.

7 things about myself:

1. I am very excited to host two of my college friends coming from out-of-town in a week.

2. I am obsessed with all things Italy and incorporate many of them into my life, from the espresso I drink every morning to my dreams of living in Italy at night.

3. I love my red geranium on my balcony. It is commonly found in the Mediterranean region you know.

4. I love to eat and my favorite sandwich is pit beef; I know.. not even Italian...

5. I studied Art History for six years and my favorite work of art is Bernini's Apollo and Daphne, which I have seen in real life. It's in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, which is amazing. You can google it for a picture and the story behind the sculpture.

6. I am a brunette with very subtle red highlights that one can see in the sunshine. I have never dyed it.

7. My birthday is April 15th and it is very important. I often spend it out-of-town.

Again, thank you, Margie, for the nomination. I am happy it can influence others positively.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Style Sunday: The Search Is On for an Everyday Handbag

I love my red Kenneth Cole New York handbag. It's the "Fold Play" tote in Cabernet. When I spotted it one day in the outlet mall I was working in, I knew it was what I had been looking for and just perfect... the right red and an appropriate size. I loved the simple design. The dark interior liner looks cleaner than it could possibly be! I used it everyday until very recently.

My Everyday Handbag
This photo was taken about nine months ago after I had settled into my new apartment.

Since I spent so much on it, I thought it would last a lifetime! Alas, it is about time to retire it... And only after two, maybe three, years! It looks very worn and past its prime. It just doesn't fit in with the polished, sophisticated look I attempt to pull off. The color is coming off most of it, it has lost its shape (after so much overloading it I'm sure!), and I already had the lining repaired once by my trusty tailor. In addition, when I wear white and perspire, the red bleeds onto the my shirt and I have to bleach the pink stains away.

And so, it is time I start looking (and saving) for its replacement. I think I could let mine go once I find the next one. I'm picky about this purchase as I will carry it so often. I suppose every item gains more importance when you employ a (moderately) minimalist wardrobe. So far, my favorite is this one...

This is the "Coach Chelsea Patent Leather Jayden Carryall" in Wine. Even though I do like the patent leather, I'm not sure if I'd love to see all that shine everyday! Maybe it wouldn't look so extreme in real life as it does in the image above. I would love to check this out in person and see if I really like it. When I first discovered it, the websites for Macy's and Coach reported that it's not in stores or not available respectively. At the moment that I'm drafting this post, it may be in two Macy's locations that I could get to; the term they list is "Limited Availability." Maybe I'll go see if I can take a look at it on Sunday or Monday... Plus, I have yet to try the new Coach outlet. I own a single Coach bag and not showing a bit of wear after like 6-8 years, it seems to hold up very well ...not that I use it all the time though. I just couldn't afford to pay full price for it. I would have to find it among clearance and not "New!" items.

I tend to prefer a handbag with a fairly simple design like this. A leather tote would fall into second place because they are a bit too simple. I do like a warm color like this one, but it could be black too. In fact, the Coach handbag I own is black. I've been carrying this fabric signature tote around for a week or so now, and maybe for a while into the future...

Like I said, the search is on.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Summer Ready

The swimsuit I ordered from Ann Taylor arrived today...

...and it fits! It looks fabulous! 

This is the one:

I'm simply not a beach bum, but now I'm looking forward to having one perfect beach or pool day even more this summer.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ready for Change

I recently wrote about a job interview and, with that, the opportunity to break into my career field of choice and to move closer to that workplace and to a city, thus radically changing my life. I was extremely excited for this potential change. Unfortunately, I didn't get the job. This taught me something. Now I know I am ready for a major overhaul in my life. It's time.

I do like my job and love my perfect apartment home where I live on my own. In addition, I am extremely grateful for all the other numerous blessings in my life, namely experiences, friends and family. I am happy. It's just now that I accomplished the goal of completely relishing living on my own in a beautiful one bedroom with a balcony for 3/4 a year now, I need to work towards my next goal. Or my other goals and dreams seem much more pressing to me now. I believe that life has the potential to be amazing and it is what you make it. I very much want to remain completely satisfied with my life.

I want my life with its decisions and actions to be directed towards achievement of my life dreams. This was actually a New Year's Resolution of mine for 2012. As the italiagal, one dream is that I want to live in Italy. Hopefully sometime in my thirties! To do that, I need to eliminate or at least have quite the handle on my substantial credit card and student loan debt.

I could earn more, yes, and that is definitely part of the plan. In fact, I will probably put a plan into place to earn extra income soon. You see, recently, my family has generously offered to drive me to and from a part-time job this summer since my car does not have air conditioning and is simply too old to put any money into. (I live where I work full-time, so I do not drive a lot.) I am not thrilled, especially since it is likely a return to retail which I was thrilled to escape just 16 months ago! I could also switch full-time jobs to one with greater compensation... I just like my job. I don't love it. I promise that I will start looking to see what's out there. If I do not work at my present job, I forfeit the small discount on rent, which actually enabled me to afford the home. I am aware that I have chosen not to take the Property Manager position that was vacant last December which pays more and that I could have applied for and maybe won. From my last job, I know that I hate being boss, I have accepted that decision. When I work more than 40 hours a week someplace, I need it to make me happy. Life is too short not to be.

Speaking of income, it would also be nice to have a travel budget again. My trip of the year was only a two day one night trip to Boston for my birthday. Which was perfect and I loved it! ...but... I can see myself "needing" more though. In fact, it would be fabulous to kick off my 30s with a trip spent backpacking through Europe... I'm 28 and without any funding now! I possess serious wanderlust and need an outlet every once in awhile at least!

What would truly impact my financial situation would be to lower my cost of living. I actually already live frugally. What I need to do is give up my beloved apartment and share a two bedroom apartment home with a roommate or two. I need a lower rent, so that I could devote the savings to paying down debt. I am a leasing consultant and know all my residents (it's a small apartment community of under 200 homes), but I have yet to like someone enough to seriously consider moving in with one of them! I feel that my town is not a good match for me. It is a family-oriented suburb and I am not, do not want to have kids in the present nor future and would prefer to live in a city. I wouldn't mind moving out of my hometown completely. I'm only still in it because I knew I could just barely afford living in my apartment and needed to lean on my parents. I always do my laundry there, for example. I also landed a job here, which in this job market was difficult to find. I was applying to leasing consultant and similar positions everyday for six weeks and only scored two interviews in that time. I am, clearly, very action-oriented and know that if I am not faced with a decision at a crossroads, that I can certainly create it for myself. If a two bedroom apartment become available for lease on property that I would want to move into, then I could post on Craigslist for a roommate. This is something that many people warn me against however.

Moving back in with my parents and adult siblings simply is not an option for me. Period. I have a wonderful family and happy upbringing, but it's time for me to be independent. I was raised to be independent in practical matters, to take care of myself. I've always wanted to be a grown up and so I couldn't move back. I would not want to move back into the house that is pretty rough around the edges. I was miserable living there as an adult.

I also need to augment my social situation. I really want a close local friend, preferably a girl, who shares similar values. I do have wonderful local friends who have I love unconditionally and I could write whole posts about how each of them has been there for me. I just don't talk with a single one of them on a daily basis or anything close to it. I don't believe any of my local friends read my beloved blog. These Marylanders are simply very different from me and their lives have taken them different places. Heck, my desire to move to a home the size of a closet within a country where the native language is not English likely sounds crazy to them! I realize that I am rather nonconformist there. When I have good news or need to talk, I usually call out-of-state. If I had a close local girlfriend, I probably wouldn't be exploding about this here! I prefer this blog to be thoroughly positive.

I would also love to have a boyfriend, a guy who I adore, not just one who chases after me, even after I politely decline an offer. I do want to be married someday, years from now. I have always been pretty successful in dating after being on I just need to afford the subscription and a bit of a budget to actually go out on dates. ...and have a bunch of recent photos taken of myself for my profile.

In addition, I would need to brush up on the Italian I've lost and further my study of it. I certainly have time to do so. A language is meant to be spoken, and I would need to figure out a way to converse with others... I know I can think creatively and hopefully I can come up with a budget-friendly option there.

...yes, I'd say that I am definitely ready for a major change.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Style Sunday: Recent Purchases from Ann Taylor

I shared my afternoon on Monday with my mom. Between a restock of her booth of antiques within a consignment shop and the discovery of the most delicious grilled chicken club sandwich in town, I am incredibly grateful that she bought me much-needed clothing from one of my favorite stores, Ann Taylor. Each item fits me very well. The salesperson was overenthusiastic, but I love to shop and don't do it much anymore, so I delighted in that! Like an Italian, she spoke in superlatives; whatever she wanted to sell me and I expressed at least some interest in was the best, the most flattering. Anyway, the purchases are the following tops:

for work:

I've already worn it and felt sophisticated.

for play:

This top is tucked in here, but the bottom is flat, 
so the whole thing is actually divided into three sections.
Hello Hourglass! I can't wait for a night out!

for color:

I picked this up at the salesperson's suggestion and brought it to the counter at my mom's insistence.
I love brilliant and saturated color and this is a Greek, Aegean blue.
I plan to wear it this summer with my white capris.

Today was pay day, so I treated myself to a swimsuit, also from Ann Taylor. This "online exclusive" is not sold in stores ...but I fell in love with it. Not having tried it on, I'm trying not to get my hopes up... if it doesn't fit, then I'll simply return it. I own a deep teal bandeau that fits and will serve me this summer. This one's worth a shot. It's actually highly reviewed online, so that's good. 

for swim:

They drop the word "glamorous" in the description 
...and if it is in person, then I'll let you know!