Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Year's Resolutions Update

Four weeks into 2014 today, I thought I would provide some sort of update or plan of attack regarding my New Year's Resolutions which you can read about here.

Since I am a very goal-oriented individual, it grieves me to report that I plan to delay trying to accomplish one of them. Here it is... I need to attempt to land a job and move to Philadelphia after my birthday trip to Paris in April because I simply cannot afford to move plus have spending money for my trip which is only 10 weeks away. I have to be realistic with my finances. I felt like a failure since I want it so badly and it hasn't happened yet and on top of that, I can't afford to make it happen when I want. I told two friends about this possibility when we were out on a Saturday night weeks ago and they comforted me that it was a fine plan. Plus, I just told Elizabeth, the friend accompanying me to Paris, on Monday evening and she agreed with my logic as well. (All old high school friends as a matter of fact. Love them!) I truly take comfort in that support. It's sunk in now that it's OK. As a result, I even submitted my vacation request at work yesterday since I hadn't yet, thinking I might be giving notice before then. Hopefully I can find employment and easily move back to a city in the cool springtime weather. I cannot wait to have a completely new life and update this very blog with all that city has to offer, all those wonderful things and places like a well-made cappuccino at an independently-owned coffee shop that I don't require my own reliable transportation to get to. I am so done being stuck in the suburbs and often inside my apartment, with a lemon of a car I am too afraid to drive or asking to borrow a vehicle that two people share already in order to arrive anywhere interesting. (Even though I make the best of any situation!) I can instead take public transportation or simply walk to whereever. As soon as I come back from Paris, I can truly commit myself to applying, like to about a half a dozen jobs a day like I did to land my current Leasing Professional gig. It's not like I can't perfect a resume posted online or simply keep an eye on the job market in the meantime.

Another resolution was to enjoy my 30th birthday in Paris. Like I mentioned, I called my travel partner Elizabeth Monday after work. She's coming over Saturday night so we can plan for Paris, likely over pizza and wings from an independently-owned place where I score a small discount since I advertise so much for them at work. Elizabeth and I have exchanged multiple long emails, but it will be great to meet again in person. She can borrow another France-related book of mine as well as look at all my travel items and luggage I already own. We don't need to buy something I already own since I could pack it, she could borrow it or we can share it. We've already come up with an optional itinerary, but I want to prepare for our meeting, coming up with several discussion points ahead of time so that it is productive. Things like sharing our airline's baggage restrictions. I also think I remember reading that we need to make a reservation for something months in advance. I look forward to hearing all the details about what she's come up with for even more things to do. Ah... we are so excited...

I already shared my thoughts about what to take with Elizabeth. I plan to bring the clothing, travel stuff and luggage that I already own, but I also hope to budget for four new items: shoes, a battery for my digital camera, an umbrella, and a new Kindle book. Firstly, I already purchased this pair of black ballet flats on Monday night. I ordered them online immediately when I noticed the best price in weeks. They feature the "N5 Comfort System" support from Naturalizer, so I can go forever in them. Plus, for comfortable shoes, they look nice. I bought the same ones that are my go-to pair for work, just in a better width for me, so I feel confident that I made the perfect selection. (Sidewalks in the apartment community still wear down these quality shoes quickly, so my current ones that are not even new now would be positively shabby by then.) Secondly, my old camera battery is completely dead and I have to look into buying a replacement. Thirdly, I've always wanted a black Samsonite Windguard umbrella and my trip to Paris where they apparently they have spontaneous downpours, would be the perfect excuse to pick one up. I installed the cheaper automatic open one on my wish list Monday night, but might wanna spring for the auto open and close one... And, finally, I may have found a good book for the flights, Julia Child Rules: Lessons in Savoring Life by Karen Karbo. This author wrote a book in a similar style, The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman, which I enjoyed. You can read the review I posted back on August 4, 2011. I've had the Kindle edition on my wish list for over a week now. I'm not promising that I won't add to the list or buy something in addition; this is simply the plan.

I promise to update all about my packing when it's closer to my departure date since with practice as a traveler, I have learned to pack lightly. I hope to take a carry-on with a non-wheeled duffel inside, so I can check that bag full of clothing on the way back, keeping most of my souvenirs with me safely in my carry-on. To hold you over, view my research so far in the form of my How to Pack for a Trip Pinterest board. As you can see layers in neutral colors is key. If you have any advice for me, then please comment. I would love to hear it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Links I Love: Today's Blog Post Finds

I wanted to quickly change my desktop image at work this afternoon 
and found this image at the top of my Pinterest webpage.
Paris. Perfect.

Just a quick post to share the following wonderful blog posts I had the opportunity to read today...

* Venice []: Venice will always be one of my top five favorite places on the planet and the lovely Oksana highlights this beautiful destination in her Travel Tuesday series. I love balconies too!
* Shopping and Eating in South Granville []: I read every post from the Hostess. Her day sounded so wonderful that it makes me wanna take a small trip to shop, wine and dine!
* Parisian Decorating []: This girl's living a dream by decorating a classic Parisian apartment!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: One of My Dad's Specialties for Dinner

My simple pleasure today was savoring my dad's homemade Beef Vegetable Soup for dinner. It was perfect. ...especially after a rather dull day of chores. I'll explain...

I've been pretty productive today... First, I washed my dishes while making my morning espresso. After applying my makeup, I also washed my powder/bronzer and blush brushes using this simple method, which I strive to do weekly now. Now air drying, I keep my brushes, my current favorite lipstick (Clinique's Almost Lipstick in Black Honey), and a black eyeliner pencil I never use in a little clear glass vase on my vanity. While getting ready for my day, I received a text from my boss asking if I could work tomorrow since she was sick. Of course. So that changed my Sunday-Monday "weekend" as I had to accomplish all my chores, shopping and errands in a single day, instead of leisurely stretching them out over two. I walked to Target and shopped a bit there, saving some money by using the app Cartwheel. I got everything on my list but one item, the e.l.f. Face Primer. I want to try a primer for the first time and this one's only 6 bucks. It's the second time that I looked for it and it's been sold out. Unfortunately, it's not sold online by Target. Oh well, perhaps I can try again after my next paycheck. Then, my mom graciously drove me to get my hair cut. Not yet time for a cut, I didn't get my long layers trimmed, just had my length shortened an inch and a half to shoulder length. I loved my length, but really wanted a bit of a change more, and apparently couldn't wait any longer! Luckily, it looks fabulous! While doing several loads of laundry at my parents' place, I picked up my library book I had placed a hold on, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. After reading The Paris Wife, I cannot wait to devour this! In addition, I did a bit of grocery shopping, only a single bagful on my budget, since I had to buy a bottle of red wine a few doors down too! If the next week is anything like the crazy busy last two, I'd go crazy without it!

So, it's fantastic to have a warm, comforting meal on such a cold day. (We even had some flurries.) This meal was such a treat growing up. I've always loved it. Chock full of vegetables, just the way I like it! And I get to have more because after dinner tonight, I probably have a serving and a half left over. The weather forecast shows a low of 8 degrees F tomorrow night! After running around today, it's nice to slow down and savor this delicious dish and the perfect way to start a much more leisurely, quiet evening. A chance to quickly recharge since my Monday is actually Monday and not Tuesday this week.

In case you missed it, here's another Simple Pleasure Sunday post.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: The Paris Wife

I finished The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain a few days ago and wanted to stay on top of writing book reviews right after I read them, so here's my take. It was wonderful and I highly recommend it.

This was my happy hour Tuesday evening.
Kate from Une Vie Chic lent me the book.

It's the story of Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife, the one he married before and as he achieved fame. I love her. She's an observer, the quiet one in a group and very interested in the well being of others. A kindred spirit. This is an honest look at their marriage from her perspective. She was amazingly supportive of her husband, making many sacrifices herself, all for him to achieve his great potential. ...and he needed this support. Thinking about his preferred subject matter and particularly his character in (the movie) Midnight in Paris, I was surprised about this, and furthermore that he was not confident and weak. She was also very strong for herself, not standing for the open marriages everyone they surrounded themselves with seemed to be having. She was a great wife to him and I yelled at him in my head for him to be a better husband to her. They were perfect for one another with an easy dynamic and major similarities during childhood.

This is fiction, but incredible historical fiction. It's written so well, I almost felt like I was in the room! It kept your interest. It the kind of book you read quickly, as I advise you to do just so you can keep all the (multiple) nicknames everyone has straight! I read it in five days, always looking forward to getting back to it.

The novel was primarily set in Paris during the 20s, which is so fun. Artists often indulged in the cafe culture. With so many cafes named, I would love to sit in the ones all of these writers and their muses did when I visit Paris in April!

Update: I just placed a hold on Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition at my local library.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Paris Amour Body Lotion

I am so happy to be smart enough to stop and indulge in a simple pleasure today of all days and following this week of all weeks! You see, my sister is moving to Pennsylvania soon and since she chose to rent a small furnished bedroom in a shared house, my family and I moved her furniture from her apartment to my parents' place today. Although, I am keeping her loveseat safe in my home until I move away since I'd take better care of it as the family dog Minnie rules the house. My dad did treat us to a delicious feast, a platter full off food to stuff 4-6 people, at Famous Dave's, which is a barbecue restaurant. After arriving back at home, since I still had an hour until sunset, I walked to Giant and Target for some shopping, grabbing a few things to last me until sometime after my next paycheck on Friday. So, I am exhausted. My week was long too as I was very busy at work. Rents change every day and are based on supply and demand in the market. Since most people do not move during the middle of January with potential snow, prices dropped drastically and as a result, I was slammed busy with prospective residents, and luckily, applicants. I collect commission about a month after they move in, so hopefully that will add to my spending money for my trip to Paris in April.

It's nice to wash up a bit and change my mood by applying a beautifully-scented lotion. I just received this bottle as a late Christmas gift the Saturday night before last...

I love this Paris Amour body lotion and use it at least once a day. It's perfumy and floral, almost fruity. In addition to smelling decadent, it keeps my skin soft even though the air is so dry during winter. The bottle with a cover design I love sits near my bathroom sink. It's available at Bath & Body Works, a store I never enter so I don't get hooked on anything because I can hardly afford the cheapest lotion at Target. The lovely description on the back reads,

"Our exclusive Paris Amour (R) fragrance is inspired by a romantic stroll through the charming streets of Paris.

This beautiful scent is a dreamy blend of French tulips, apple blossoms and sparkling pink champagne touched with sandalwood and creamy musk."

It's a very thoughtful gift. My two friends (from high school) gave me this lotion in addition to two other items. One is a girly notepad with an illustration of a black stiletto embellished with pink ribbon. It also features an Audrey Hepburn quote, my favorite at the moment, "Paris is always a good idea." It came with a small pale pink pen with uniform white polka dots. The last item is a reusable to-go coffee cup with the same print. The Audrey Hepburn quote reads, "Some people dream of having a big swimming pool. With me, it's closets." As I was unwrapping them, I told them I was actually going to Paris. Before then, they only knew I was daydreaming about it and saving for it. It was the perfect gift. I use the notepad routinely now, but haven't used the mug just yet. Perhaps, I'll take some sweetened tea to work in the morning... The perfect presents were generous as well. I couldn't even afford to reciprocate.

Now, refreshed, I should come up with how I will spend my evening. Have a beautiful Sunday night!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Basic Book Reviews: What I Read During 2013: Part 3

Oops! I forgot to review a book! ...and I just read it during November. I simply cannot leave the promotion of this important book out! Make sure to view the other two dozen titles of the books I read throughout 2013 in Part 1 and Part 2.

25. Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing Like the French by Harriet Welty Rochefort
I expected this to be light reading, and I'm glad it wasn't. Instead, this is an intense look at the French and their way of life. The author married a Frenchman and has lived as an expat for decades. She is such a wonderful observer and I highly recommend her writing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Metal Bed

I finally own a metal bed with decorative scrollwork. I've been wanting one forever! My parents gave me this one as a Christmas gift and then set it up for me. I so love it! It feels European. Check it out in my bedroom...

Some nice scrollwork, but also some straight lines, so not overly feminine.

The finish is called "French Roast."

This was one of the six items I wanted for my 30th birthday. See the list here.

Basic Book Reviews: What I Read During 2013: Part 2

Here's more of what I read last year, during the fall and winter in particular. Don't forget to check out my first 12 brief book reviews in Part 1.

I am so pleased to promote these books I've enjoyed. I always meant to draft a review immediately after reading each, but failed to do so. It's nice to publish a short series covering a year's worth of reading around the occasion of the end of the year.

13. Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc. by Delia Ephron
I read this book written by a New Yorker on the way to Manhattan in October. Perfect. It reminds me of her sister Nora Ephron's writing and I enjoy both. Sometimes what she declares about life can be very true. My favorite part was, unfortunately, the excerpt I read previously, "Bakeries."

14. Blossoming in Provence by Kristin Espinasse
I had read Words in a French Life so I knew I would enjoy this one as well. Each chapter is a humorous little story followed by a vocabulary lesson.

15. The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management by Carol Cottrill
Since the author is firmly against the diet, she recommends twelve tips on how to maintain a healthy figure based on the French attitude towards food instead. This book has already helped me and I can see referring back to it even more in the future. For example, I now try to savor a square of Ghirardelli chocolate, 60% cacao dark chocolate at that, instead of consuming handfuls of cheaper chocolate. I felt like this book offered something different from the only other French (non-)diet book I've read, French Women Don't Get Fat.

16. Just Like Jack by Shirley Marks
This is a cute little romance novel that was cheap to buy on my Kindle. I was in the mood for this genre and to quickly read a book in a sitting or two.

17. A Taste of Romance by Roni Denholtz
Another cute romance I devoured in a sitting but I prefer this author's writing. I like the main character, a beautiful Italian woman. I borrowed this one for free on an offer with my new Kindle.

18. Lights of Love by Roni Denholtz

This one was fine, just not as good as #17. I never found out how it ended since the story suddenly stopped and then new text revealed an interrogation about plutonium! (I did report it to Amazon.) Oh well... I can predict exactly what would have happened.

19. Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Ollivier
I finally read this since the other French travel narrative and French lifestyle books I've read often quote from it. A French girl is very much herself and this is a wonderful book full of insights to channel that.

20. Coins in the Fountain by Judith Works
I started this book during 2013 but got distracted with other reads, so... I actually haven't finished it yet. Kindle reports that I am 75% through though. The sample had me intrigued by the author. She seems like a strong woman who has a different life every so often. This book is good so far, an account of living in Rome from an intellectual.

21. Forever Chic: Frenchwomen's Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style, and Substance by Tish Jett
Even though I am not the target audience of a woman over 40, I found this book full of tips inspired by Frenchwomen of a certain age helpful. After all, a chic transformation is about taking good care of yourself and that's an important lesson at any age.

22. Rick Steves' Paris 2014 by Rick Steves
I'm using this, my go-to guidebook, in addition to so many resources on the internet and Elizabeth's input to help plan our trip to Paris. Less than 3 months to go! If you've read Rick Steves then you might know that he loves Rue Cler, considering the street quintessentially French. I'll find out!

23. How to Order an Italian Coffee in Italy by Sara Rosso
Since I only knew about the coffee I would like to order in Italy, this cute little guide was helpful to learn about other coffee drinks, different beverages and its accompaniments. It would be even more wonderful for someone who doesn't know anything about the subject yet and was planning a trip to Italy. Pronunciation and pictures embellish the brief descriptions.

24. Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah
The author needed to find something to do in Paris while her diplomat husband was suddenly called away immediately after their arrival to a solo year in Baghdad. She's like Julia Child. In each of the ten chapters, she explores a particular French dish from a different area. She travels to the region it originated from in order to learn more about the signature dish. So authentic. Now, I'll have to try steak frites in Paris. I preferred her personal story to the dish education however, even though she describes her food experiences very well.

As you can see, I've read a lot about the French last year and am not about to stop! Hopefully all that will help when I channel "my inner French girl" in Paris during April. In addition, I'll have to start planning what I'll read on the plane rides and if there's any downtime while there.

I will try harder to promptly record my thoughts on each new book during 2014.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Breakfast This Morning

I love the Italian breakfast of a coffee and a croissant, un caffè e un cornetto, and that's exactly what I enjoyed this Sunday morning.

I made illy espresso in my moka stovetop coffee maker and served myself a couple shots in my favorite cup and saucer from Boston's North End. I always sweeten it with a bit of sugar. (If you order un caffè in bar in Italy, then you will receive an espresso and not any other type of coffee.)

I also baked chocolate croissants this morning. They're incredibly easy. I simply unrolled the dough from a can of store brand crescent rolls onto a baking sheet and arranged a flattened 1 teaspoon measuring spoon full of Nestle mini semi-sweet chocolate chips into a small triangle onto each dough triangle before rolling it up, starting at the end with the chocolate, and then pinched the sides of the newly-created roll closed. 

Finally, they bake for 11 to 13 minutes. I set the timer for 12 minutes and took them out right away since I felt like having them a little more golden brown. 

Each can yields 8 rolls.

I make these every once in awhile and was originally inspired by a blog post long ago. I'm sure that larger crescent rolls and homemade dough would be even better. Additionally, you can stuff them with other ingredients, including nutella like this blogger.

The finished product was delicious, especially with the chocolate chips melted. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my little breakfast at my coffee table and sofa. Even though I took time to savor it, I also didn't linger, moving to clean up and then get ready for my day off. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Basic Book Reviews: What I Read During 2013: Part 1

I am a voracious reader. Since I love books so much, I wanted to share, and recommend, what I've read over the past year.

The following pieces of feedback are unfortunately not full, formal reviews, rather they are simply my overall thoughts on each work. I'm not sure the total list of 24 books is comprehensive; these are what came up in my research.

I am breaking this report up into two posts. I hope to finish and publish the second half at midnight next Monday, exactly one week from this first half.

I tried my best to place these in chronological order, the order they came into my life during 2013...

1. The Venice Experiment: A Year in Trial and Error Living Abroad by Barry Frangipane; Ben Robbins
Italy travel narrative is my favorite kind of book and this is a good one. I wish my future husband will ask me to spontaneously live in Venice for a year! Read this book to find out why the author explained away an odd conversation with "Venice just happened."

2. My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir by Noelle Hancock
Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt's quote, "Do one thing every day that scares you," this chick does some crazy things over a year. It is pretty entertaining. I also love a little history about a strong woman like Eleanor Roosevelt too.

3. Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi by Olivier Magny
This is a fun quick read. The author writes a page or so on a topic, declares that all Parisians love it, they use this one word to describe it and that's final. There are zero exceptions to the rule. I'm not sure if I agree with every single thing having read a lot of French lifestyle books and blogs, but I still believe this book to be very helpful. The author opened a wine bar called O Chateau where I hope to do a tasting when I'm in Paris.

4. Hidden in Paris by Corine Gantz
This is a cute novel set in Paris. Even though the characters are a bit odd, they are so developed that you root for them. This is one of the three books I bought myself for my birthday (and the others are #3 and #5).

5. Saints and Soccer Balls: my Seasons in Italy by Clare Fleishman
This is a dense book where the author strives to uncover the truth behind Italian stereotypes. It's pretty good.

6. Audrey in Rome by Luca Dotti; Ludovica Damiani, Sciascia Gambaccini
This is a coffee table book and the photography is lovely. Most of the black and white images are rather candid ones that simply show Audrey Hepburn walking around. Did you know she lived in Rome for 20 years? I even love how the book looks on my coffee table. The front cover is a single black and white photograph where she looks so cute and fun yet stylish and the title is printed in my favorite color, dark pink.

7. The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti
This is a cookbook that I recommend. In fact, this is my second cookbook purchase from this author. Her mother is from Abruzzo, the region where I studied abroad. I've only made and enjoyed "Joe's Pesto" so far, but look forward to trying out many more recipes.

8. Ooh La La!: French Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Everyday by Jamie Cat Callan
I actually already reviewed this important book on my blog, which you can read here. There are so many lessons to learn. ...and it's all fun; reading the book feels like chatting with a friend. I had the pleasure of communicating with the author via facebook and she kindly let me do a giveaway of an autographed copy of this book. I even gave her tips for travel in Italy! I hope to meet her in person one day.

9. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
I do love the idea of this book, placing importance on gathering around the table for a meal with those you love. I did enjoy it, but just know that she shares her life experiences too.

10. Inferno by Dan Brown
I thoroughly enjoy the Robert Langdon series. It's hard to imagine how another one can top the previous book, but it did. I love that it's set in Florence. This was so perfect to read on the car ride to and from Ocean City, MD in July.

11. The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down by Andrew McCarthy
Did you know that this actor is a travel writer? A good one at that. I enjoyed his travel stories. He even made it near my corner of the world, Baltimore. Plus, he is truly honest about his self discovery.

12. The Perfume Collector: A Novel by Kathleen Tessaro
I loved this novel about the stories of two linked women set at different times. It held my interest until the end.

Stay tuned for the last 12 book reviews!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Manicure

Ever since my manicure in a Manhattan salon on October 21, 2013, I've been painting my fingernails at home. I was never in the habit before, even though my toenails are always neatly pedicured. Always putting effort in my appearance everyday, now having my nails done makes me feel even more polished. The whole package feels more complete. I love the look of polished and glossy nails! Furthermore, it's important to take care of yourself, to take time for yourself. Pampering is such a pleasure. At home manicures are budget-friendly for me. Perhaps after Paris, I can throw in a more expensive professional salon visit every once in awhile.

My New York manicure was in Dutch Tulips by OPI.

Maybe I should purchase this particular shade...

I just painted my nails in my favorite color, California Raspberry by OPI which is a shimmery dark pink, this evening. I happened to take off this same color and reapply it, apparently not getting enough, wearing it twice in a row!

(My manicure is simply not photo-ready immediately after.)

Before that, it was A Oui Bit of Red again by OPI at Christmastime. I wanted more of a red for the holiday.

Waiting for the holidays, I purchased a new lacquer that was also different for me, a sparkly champagne color called My Favorite Ornament. This shade was part of Mariah Carey's holiday collection for OPI. It took getting used to, but it was nice to try something other than dark pink or red. It felt festive.

I've been working on a post due to publish at midnight going into Monday. You will not want to miss it!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reflections on 2013 and Resolutions for 2014

Happy New Year!

I had a wonderful year in 2013, with my beautiful everyday handbag coming into my life on the occasion of my birthday in April, celebrating Chris's 30th birthday in Ocean City, MD in July, having Sunday-Monday weekends back after quitting my part-time job and then leaving in August, rocking a bikini on the beach also in August, going on a girly getaway to New York City for J's 30th birthday in October,  my shopping spree throughout November, booking a trip to Paris with Elizabeth on Black Friday also in November, and finally receiving a metal bed at Christmas in December. And those are just the big events. I am incredibly grateful for the little things too, which includes all my entertaining of a guest or two, hanging out with my family's new dog Minnie, sipping margaritas throughout the summer, trying new recipes, savoring a cappuccino and chocolate croissant while reading at my favorite coffee shop, spontaneously meeting up with Kate in Baltimore, enjoying a cup of hot chocolate every once in a while during the winter, giving my parents a thoughtful Christmas gift, and enjoying the creative outlet of blogging. I am a very lucky girl.

I love new beginnings but I feel like improvement could happen any day, not just on January 1st. Since I'm looking forward to turning 30, I've been focusing on what I wanted to do with a new decade rather than how I wanted to change over 2014. I'm afraid the ones I will share on this post are rather hastily made. As an INFJ who constantly daydreams of possibilities and is always a work in progress, I love New Year's resolutions. I'll probably make them every year.

But, first a reflection upon the resolutions over last year...

My resolutions for 2013 were:

1. To lose weight. My specific goal was a 12 pound weight loss. It turns out that I lost 4 pounds, and I'll consider that a success. I always try to cut down on eating and have been walking where I needed to go since I really haven't driven my own car in the past six months.

2. To master portion control. This happens to be a fail. I still need to eat less at meals and stop before feeling absolutely stuffed. I realize that I will be working on this every day of my life. I did, however, develop the habit of savoring a single square of Ghirardelli 60% cacao dark chocolate instead of munching on handfuls of other chocolate as a dessert or indulgence.

3. To escape my hometown. I am still working on this one. I realized that I want to move to Philadelphia.

4. To break into the international education field. I didn't accomplish this one either.

5. To plan my 30th birthday trip in 2014. I am unbelievably excited to go to Paris for my big birthday! Elizabeth and I are planning possible itineraries now. I cannot wait to sit at a cafe with Elizabeth, savor a coffee and pain au chocolat and gaze at the beautiful buildings and people. I am so pleased that I am actually going after all I have sacrificed, working so many days a week, holding back so much, especially following such a strict budget. It will all be worth it. Travel is what I live for.

My resolutions for 2014 are:

1. To lose weight. I still hope to continue and lose that additional 8 pounds to reach the goal weight I wanted in 2013. I've been very happy at that particular weight before. It just happens to be at the low end of my current size, so I don't need to tailor all my current items or purchase an entire new wardrobe. With a slightly slimmer silhouette, I want to feel fabulous in my clothes.

2. To move back to Philly. So done with the suburbs, I need to move to a city, and I have chosen my beloved Philadelphia. I plan to take even more action than I have been lately in order to make this a reality. (My sister is also moving to Pennsylvania. She has landed a job and will be less than an hour away from my intended future home at the end of the month.)

3. To enjoy my 30th birthday in Paris. I want to have the time of my life. I am ready for adventure. I'll even speak French! Practically, I need to save every penny I can so I can do everything I want to do and bring home pretty things.

Not only do I hope you reach your own goals, dear readers, but also, in the spirit of my new series, I hope that your new year is full of wonderful moments of simple pleasures. ...that you consciously make each day beautiful. 

I would also love to learn your resolutions. If you have one, then please comment below.