Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: Seven Letters from Paris: A Memoir

The last book I read was Seven Letters from Paris: A Memoir by Samantha Vérant and I highly recommend it. This is a wonderful love story about an American woman who seeks out a Frenchman she spent about a day with in Paris twenty years ago. Right after that, he wrote her seven incredible love letters and over two decades, she never wrote him back. As you can imagine, it has a happy ending. I crave their passionate love. I felt that her account was very honest, revealing great vulnerability. Furthermore, it inspires readers to take chances in love and life.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Dinner Party for 2

I had Elizabeth over Friday evening. First, we shopped for dinner and dessert at the grocery store, then the wine at the nearby liquor store. I also picked up a small bouquet of fresh flowers with the ingredients. (I can't wait to move to a city and patronize a better liquor store where the bottles of red wine are not standing up on the shelves, but lying down properly instead. I picked up the baguette on Wednesday and would love to buy a better quality one at my new 'go to' spot as well.)

Next, we prepared penne pasta with sauteed red pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and onion in a tomato sauce topped with grilled chicken. I sliced up part of a baguette and served this bread with olive oil for dipping. While I was attending to the saute, Elizabeth actually cut and arranged the flowers in the vase I handed her beautifully. (I cut and rearranged them again since I wanted to change the water today. My arrangement is featured in the first photo.)  We had red wine and water. Our wine selection was a big bottle of Merlot by Cavit. I expected it to be fruity, but felt it was smooth instead, without strong notes. This drinkable and economical wine would be something I might consider picking up if serving someone who is not used to drinking red wine in the future. The two of us prefer red wine to white, which is recommended to pair with chicken. We say, drink what you like.

Even though I need to purchase more table linens, I still tried to create a warm atmosphere, far from the cold drizzle/sleet outside. Yes, those are red cloth napkins on red place mats. I'll do better next time. 

For dessert, we made brookies, the brownie-chocolate chip cookie combination that I'm obsessed with now. Elizabeth could see why.

All evening, I had background music playing on my phone. I selected the "Italian Traditional Radio" Pandora station. It was a lot of Volare and Con te Partirò, but I loved it and I think Elizabeth liked it as well.

We wined and dined the evening away. We caught up with each other. It was really nice.

This is my 50th Simple Pleasure Sunday post! Since I believe it is important to take pleasure in small things daily, I plan to continue. I hope you enjoy reading them and that it inspires you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Have a wonderful weekend!

I am looking forward to my weekend which I will be spending with friends.

Since I am currently poor and some of my friends are in the same boat, I will be hostessing a dinner and a lunch in my home. For both meals, my guest(s) and I will prepare some sort of chicken, vegetable, pasta combination, which is a cheap choice at that. All that matters is good food and great company. We'll have a good time.

Friday evening, the friend who I went to Paris with, Elizabeth is driving me to the grocery and liquor store for inspiration, ingredients and a bottle of red wine we both agree on. Then she'll come over and we'll make dinner before wining and dining.

I am glad she needed to meet on a Friday since we're expecting a storm to dump both rain and snow here on Saturday. I will likely stay in that night.

On Sunday, two more of my old high school girlfriends, J and C, are coming over at lunchtime. C has suggested a menu of a skinny version of Chicken Florentine with salad and plans to take care of the grocery shopping.

The weekend for many is Friday night through Sunday night, but since I work about 51 Saturdays a year and have off on Monday, mine is Saturday night through Monday night instead. We are expecting more snow on Monday, so I may stay in that day as well ...sipping hot chocolate while gazing out the window for part of it. As an introvert, perhaps this weekend will be a perfect balance of both socializing with others and being by myself. (I restore my energy by having brief bits of time alone.)

I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Decluttering 100 Things

I value simplicity, so I keep my home decluttered.

I like living with only what I love, need and actually use.

Fiona of the blog How to be Chic challenged herself to get rid of 100 Things over seven weeks or so before Christmas. She invited her readers to join her. Since I am already fairly decluttered and even though I'm very optimistic, I was doubtful that I could hit 100. Nonetheless, I kept trying and posting my little list of items as a blog comment each week. At Christmas, I hit 80. 

Over the last two days, inspired by the energy of the new year for a fresh start, I spontaneously decided to push myself and finish the challenge. I actually decluttered 20 more items. I did it! ...100 things... If I can do this, anyone can.

I would love to move during 2015. So goal-oriented, I always want to feel like I'm working towards achieving a goal. Right now, I'm saving money. During December and January, however, that's incredibly slow-going since I do not earn as much commission in the winter and can hardly afford pasta this week. Things have been really picking up at work since Saturday and I am confident that I will be back on track with my Move Fund soon. So, this decluttering is something I can do to prepare in the meantime. Now, I certainly don't have to move as much. I won't be wasting energy carrying stuff that is unnecessary.

I copied and pasted each "100 Things Update" from my comments on Fiona's blog below:

November 16, 2014:
1. blue jeans that are too big
2. black trousers that are too big
3. purple scarf with silver sequins and thread
4. blue scarf with silver sequins and thread*
5. blue scarf*
6. green scarf*
7. turquoise scarf*
8. red crystal drop earrings
*I prefer warm colors over cool, so I rarely wear them.

November 22, 2014:
9. June/July edition of a magazine that I purchased on a trip and have read
10. half-used tube of a facial mask since I have a new favorite and simply couldn't go back
11. white vase with small opening I rarely use
12. turquoise vinyl tablecloth with white quatrefoil print, still in plastic with $2.99 price tag
13-15. three white camisoles that are worn out and recently replaced
16. dark pink long-sleeve t-shirt weight hoodie. I primarily incorporate exercise into my daily life rather than working out in a gym, so I do not often wear work-out clothes. Also a snug fit, so cute but I never felt really comfortable.

November 28, 2014:
17. Nokia bar phone I purchased while studying abroad almost a decade ago. My current smartphone and service function internationally.
18. inflatable travel hanger
19. black polyester passport/travel wallet with velcro closure
20. empty CoverGirl powder compact with mirror that I saved among my travel items
21. Santa and snowflake-themed box
22. empty cookie tin saved from last year
23. sealed original Chapstick that was part of a larger gift from Christmas 2013
24. Venus refillable razor handle because I am buying the much cheaper store-brand disposable razors now which work well enough that I will not go back.

December 1, 2014:
25. Glade plug-in 
26. red kiddie star sunglasses
27. LL Bean travel alarm clock with broken cover/stand
28. luggage tag that was a gift
29. empty photo album that was a gift
30. pair of kitchen curtains that was a gift. I only used the valance and rod.
31. pair of silver earrings
32. dying azalea plant

December 6, 2014:
33-51. 18 knives and 1 fork that sit in a drawer unused; all hand-me-downs
52-55. 4 bed pillows that I just replaced. It's advised to replace them every few years and it was time, as one even had a ripped seam. One in, one out. I have storage space for a couple for company, but decided against it.

December 16, 2014:
56. a light lavender scarf that I gave to my mother. It will go with her new charcoal gray winter coat well. I prefer more vibrant colors over pastel ones anyway. I now have ten scarves tied neatly onto two five-spot hangers.
57-59. three pairs white ankle socks past their prime

December 20, 2015:
60. a pink shirt that has a faint stain I have been unable to get out. It's simply no longer nice enough to wear.
61-62. two pairs of earrings I don't wear much anymore. One has needed an easy repair for awhile now.
63. a pair of pajama pants that were a gift

December 29, 2014:
64-65. two giant novelty wine glasses that were a gift this Christmas
66. light up outdoor reindeer that was a gift a few Christmases ago
67. Santa door draft blocker that was a gift a few Christmases ago
68. mostly used old roll of Christmas gift wrap. It's time for a new pattern next year.
69. half used notepad
70. and matching pen
71-72. two SD cards with little storage capacity. I do not even own a digital camera at the moment. Each likely came with a camera over the years.
73. 3-tier bleacher-style stand. I bought it for the three rectangular plates which I kept. I only donated the stand I have never used.
74-77. four bras of the wrong size
78-80. three small drawstring bags I kept in my jewelry armoire that I never used even though I enjoy traveling.

Here's my list from January 20, 2015:
81. martini glass, an even number of them look better on my bar
82-83. two pillowcases
84. patterned pillow sham*
85. patterned twin fitted sheet*
86. patterned twin flat sheet*
87. pink bath towel*
88. pink hand towel*
89. coat that was a gift
90-91. two old plastic cutting boards
92. knife
93. Christmas gift craft project leftovers
94. mostly used roll of old wrapping paper
95. cooler with speakers, never used gift from Christmas 2013
96. Rick Steves' Venice guidebook from 2011
97. mini OPI bottle of purple nail lacquer that was part of a Christmas gift set
98. seven pieces of steel wool. I kept four from the opened package.
99. nine take-out menus
100. three mail order catalogues
*See image below.

Merci, Fiona for inspiring me to declutter. I feel lighter.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Dressing Up for Everyday

I have written about dressing up for a dinner out or special occasion here, but today I dressed up without any plans to leave my home nor to entertain here. No places to go; no people to see, so far on this cold rainy Sunday. I wore a dress just because I felt like it. Maybe I chose to in order to embrace my femininity. Perhaps as a small celebration that I lost two of the few pounds gained over November and December. Or even to participate in a style blogger's most recent challenge (that I'll explain in a bit.). Moreover, I believe that every single day should be celebrated and is worthy of using one's nice things. Life should be lived to the fullest. Leading a passionate life is important to me.

I am wearing my favorite dress, my solid black wrap from Ann Taylor.

Underneath, I have my black lacy silky black camisole from White House Black Market (a workhorse of my wardrobe!) and black herringbone tights (love that pattern).

My accessories are simple, my usual watch and a pair of earrings, which are cubic zirconia studs with a cubic zirconia teardrop dangling, a small upgrade from my go-to classic cubic zirconia studs. Later, I may paint my nails Style Hunter by Essie, a bright dark pink I love. Should I feel a chill, I can always throw on my black cashmere cardigan. This dress is actually not part of my Winter 2014-2015 Capsule Wardrobe nor even among the special occasion items I listed as extras to it this season. This is a very rare exception that I have pulled something outside of it, but I am happy that I did. Should I go out, I could pull on my black knee-high heeled boots plus a winter coat and scarf (for a pop of vibrant color) of course. As I type, it just hit 40 degrees F!

I adore Audrey over at Putting Me Together. She just introduced a new weekly style challenge series. The first one was to wear a dress. You can check out her how she wore her dress here. I will definitely be linking up.

Friday, January 16, 2015

What I'm Reading

I started reading the new book Seven Letters from Paris: A Memoir by Samantha Vérant last weekend after having picked it up from the hold shelf at the library during my lunch on Friday. This love story is wonderful so far! Since there are rave reviews, I'm sure I'll enjoy it until the end.

Current reading belongs on my nightstand.

I usually read in bed before getting some beauty sleep.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New Recipe #5: Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Every Christmas Eve growing up, my family and I would wait outside our house for Santa to drive by with the fire department. He would stop, give us lollipops and wish us a "Merry Christmas!" Then, we would enjoy hors d'oeuvres like meatballs or perhaps a meal and open one gift, the present for each us from my aunt, uncle and three cousins in Oregon.

I kind of outgrew this tradition and am so pleased that I replaced it with one I enjoy again. For the second Christmas Eve in a row, my mom came over to my apartment and the two of us baked desserts for after dinner on Christmas Day. I truly enjoy baking and my mom relishes the time together.

Since I strive to be a domestic goddess, I do not love trying new recipes out for the first time for such a big event. Armed with a cookbook and a bookmark noting which pages of recipes she wants to prepare, this does not phase my mom whatsoever. I had never even seen anyone make cut-out sugar cookies, let alone make them myself!

We did do recipes that we have done before. I had made two batches of my famous fudge the preceding Monday and Tuesday, chocolate and chocolate walnut. On Christmas Eve, I also baked brookies after I got out of work, yet prior to her arrival. We also made my mother's favorite cookie, Russian Tea Cookies. She reported that this batch was the closest one she's done to what my grandmother used to bake. She whipped up drop sugar cookies made from the Betty Crocker bag and then dusted them with confectionery sugar. (My dad also made peanut butter cookies from the bag. I think they purchased a Key Lime cheesecake that graced the table as well. My brother's lovely girlfriend J made magic bars full of many ingredients. The table was just as full of desserts as it was with food during the feast. We actually had lasagna instead of the more traditional ham.)

Anyway... for the sugar cookies, I found this recipe where you do not chill the dough, so that the two of us could make a batch together in its entirety. Again, I used my new French Kitchen marble pastry slab from Crate & Barrel to be the surface where I knead the dough, roll it out and then cut the cookies. We borrowed my sister's KitchenAid mixer to make the dough. I also ordered three cookie cutters from Sur la Table, an ornament, a star and an Eiffel Tower.

The sugar cookies turned out well, but I definitely need some inspiration (like this (from Elements of Style)) and to practicepracticepractice decorating them with frosting, sugar and sprinkles. I politely asked my mother to tell me the desserts she wanted to make in advance and I would make them multiple times and then she could simply assist me in churning it out on Christmas Eve. It is important to me that what I contribute taste delicious and look beautiful.

We did many but I saved this one to snap a photo...

Eiffel Tower Sugar Cookie

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe from In katrina's kitchen

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. granulated white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2 tsp. baking powder
3 c. all-purpose flour plus a bit more for the pastry slab and rolling pin

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In mixer, cream butter and sugar
3. Add and mix in extracts and egg
4. In another bowl, combine baking powder and flour
5. Add this to the mixer a bit at a time
6. Wet hands and finish kneading the dough by hand
7. Flour surface and rolling pin and roll some at a time to 1/4 inch tall
8. Cut with a cookie cutter 
9. Carefully peel off and place on a baking sheet
10. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden towards the bottom of side
11. Let cool on sheet until firm enough to lift onto a cooling rack
12. Frost cookies
13. Add colored sugar or sprinkles

I like this recipe and plan to use it again. You can really taste the 1/2 teaspoon of almond flavor.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: My Favorite Chocolate Truffle

In just over a year of documenting simple pleasures, I've written about savoring a chocolate truffle or two herehere, and here. I often enjoy this particular pleasure. However, I do not believe that I've posted my favorite to date. Since I love to shop small, surprisingly, it's not even by an independent maker, but a well-known name brand. I adore the dark chocolate Lindor ball by Lindt. That's the one with the dark blue wrapper. I prefer decadent dark chocolate to the more sugary milk chocolate variety. The interior melts in your mouth. It's a decent size, so a single one may very well satisfy my chocolate cravings. This particular one is my favorite food item.

I received a variety pack from a resident during the holiday season.

I may indulge in one as dessert for lunch or dinner as well as one before bed.

Shannon's go-to luxury is a chocolate truffle too (223).
[This is what I am reading and it is fabulous.]

Monday, January 5, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Poinsettias

On Sunday, I celebrated Christmas with my dad's side of the family in Delaware. We gather to catch up, eat and engage in a white elephant gift exchange. It is always great to see my grandmother. Her chicken salad (with its homemade salad dressing) is also a highlight and will always be one of the top 5 best things I (or her children or other grandchildren) have ever eaten. In the gift exchange, I "stole" from my cousin and also ended up with a huge 2 1/2 lb. Whitman's Sampler box of chocolates. Believe it or not, I actually haven't opened it yet.

Chocolates pictured: 
Ferrero Rocher, 
Rheb's assorted (which is a local Baltimore brand routinely purchased by my maternal grandfather), assorted Lindt Lindor balls in addition to the Whitman's Sampler.

My brother's girlfriend J received a waffle maker with... King Syrup, which everyone howled over since all of us grew up with the thick sugary King Syrup as either the only option or one of a couple of options to top pancakes, french toast and waffles. Apparently it was made in Baltimore. It's difficult to find in every grocery store nowadays, but may possibly be with the sugar/baking supplies rather than among the bottles of maple syrup. I suppose that everyone has their inside jokes...

Several poinsettias decorated the banquet room we were in. Apparently I'm the only the one with a green thumb for potted plants, even though they're all farmers, so I took two large ones home. I adore their red color. They are gorgeous. "Poinsettia" in Italian is Stella di Natale, literally the "Christmas Star."

I apologize for not posting this on Sunday as usual. Something happened at the apartment community where I live and work just as I was due to leave at 9 AM, and so I delayed my departure an hour. As a result, I couldn't do all my laundry prior to the trip to Delaware. After the trip, I had to finish up, but only did a little more since E wanted to see me (as we usually see each other at least a little bit on Sundays. I also had enough quarters to just wash the last load of black sweaters and delicates I needed for the rest of the week today.). After he generously treated me to Chinese and left, I was still undecided on which topic I wanted to write about and just plain tired. Since I am trying to work on this blog every day, maybe I'll keep a draft documenting a simple pleasure so I can quickly publish it if multiple unexpected events arise on a Sunday again or create a deadline where I must finish by Friday and simply schedule it on the appropriate day. Whatever I do, I will be better in the future. I want my audience to expect a post at least every Sunday. As an INFJ, I am usually a woman of my word.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Recipe #4: Cranberry Scones

Back on Monday, December 15th, I made another new recipe, cranberry scones. I selected this particular dish since cranberries had just been in season. Every once in awhile, I will make cranberry-orange muffins from the box for breakfast. Even though it was my first time preparing any kind of scone, they looked like they were supposed to and turned out in general. However, like the other recipes I have tried, I want to tweak this one too. Instead of brushing half-and-half on top and then sprinkling with sugar prior to baking, I think I might bake them and then sift confectionery sugar on top as I predict it would add more sweetness which would appeal to my big sweet tooth. My boss enjoyed one and suggested a glaze. I kneaded, shaped and sliced the dough on my new French Kitchen marble pastry slab from Crate & Barrel (that I ordered with a couple discounts for Christmas baking but it arrived in time for this recipe).

I used this recipe here from Martha Stewart.

Cranberry Scones
Serves 8.

2 c. all-purpose flour plus more for slab
5 tbsp. sugar plus a bit more for topping
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 c. half-and-half plus a bit more for topping
1/2 c. halved cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cut cranberries in half and measure 1/2 cup. Leave to the side.
3. In a bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir.
4. Add butter and play with until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
5. Stir in half-and-half until just moistened.
6. Fold in cranberries.
7. Dust slab with flour.
8. Knead dough 5-10 times.
9. Pat into a 1-inch tall circle.
10. Cut into 8 wedges.
11. Place on a baking sheet a couple of inches apart.
12. Top wedges with some half-and-half and then sprinkle with sugar.
13. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.
14. Let cool.

I usually enjoyed a slice with a couple of cups of sweetened espresso or a cup of sweetened black tea either in the morning or afternoon.

I look forward to making it again next autumn as cranberries are in season mid-September through mid-November in North America.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Gift

I am thrilled to report that I got back together with E. Since I believe that relationships are healthier away from social media, I will simply add that he's still wonderful... We agreed upon dating on 12/13/14, which is a nice anniversary date! The next day, on Sunday, December 14th, he treated me to a daytrip to my beloved Philadelphia.

The major point of interest on my itinerary was the German-style outdoor Christmas market in Love Park or JFK Plaza. I wanted to attend because my facebook feed was full of pictures of them throughout Europe. Plus, since E had lived in Germany, he had memories of attending them as well, so I wanted to share this particular experience with him more than anyone else. This was actually one of the last things we did since we wanted to experience it when it was lit up after dark. It was my favorite Christmas gift I received.

We took the train up, hopped on the subway and then strolled along Walnut Street to one of my favorite coffee shops off Rittenhouse Square, La Colombe. They had remodeled since the last time I was there, replacing the charming little tabletops with Deruta-style painting to a more sleek gray marble bar. While people-watching out the window, chatting about what people were wearing as well as adding to our own wardrobes, we enjoyed delicious coffee and pastry.

Next, we shopped at my favorite accessories store in the city nearby, Tselaine. He actually bought his sister-in-law a beautiful scarf for Christmas.

A couple of blocks down and another couple over, we walked through Di Bruno Bros. We had thoroughly enjoyed antipasti together previously and have both been looking forward to repeating it since, so I definitely wanted to show him the ultimate place in the country to pick up such supplies.

We also browsed my favorite jewelry store, Fire & Ice. I still have my eye on their super sparkly dark pink-colored ruby bracelet.

After that, we headed down Chestnut Street to my favorite place in the city, the Reading Terminal Market. Right away, I purchased some cranberry-pistachio biscotti from Termini Bros. before I showed off the whole indoor market. It being Sunday, unfortunately, the Amish section was closed. He bought his mom a handmade Christmas gift. We picked up cheesesteaks and cokes at my preferred spot, Tommy DiNic's, home of the best sandwich in America. We finally found a couple of seats; this place is always packed, especially around lunchtime on a weekend day! I tried the broccoli rabe topping for the first time and found that I preferred it without. We also bought cookies (purchased by weight) from the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company prior to departing.

The two of us strolled down eclectic South Street. I pointed out the mosaic-filled Magic Gardens which piqued his interest so we went in. He loved it! It wouldn't surprise me if he took hundreds of pictures. We took a selfie there, which I later framed and gave to him at Christmastime. We continued down the street, making it to the end. This guy overheard E mention that the birthplace of the Marine Corps must be nearby, so he stopped to tell us where as well as a bit about it, really how 95 was built on top of where the tavern once stood. E had already visited the plaque on a previous trip, but I wish I would have known! I would have put it on the itinerary for this former Marine.

Finally, we took in the Christmas Village. Usually, there's a fountain at Love Park (named for the famous LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana), but there was a huge tree instead. I sipped hot chocolate with a generous portion of whipped cream while E had mulled wine, glühwein, in a souvenir cup. I enjoyed perusing all the stalls and the tent, most with a more cultural flair. To remind me of the trip, I bought a simple red Christmas ornament.

The two of us jumped on the subway heading towards 30th Street Station. Across the street from the train station, we had dinner at Slainte Pub, an Irish restaurant. I just had a burger, fries and beer, but after a day of walking around outside on a cold gray day, it was perfect. I tried a draft beer, Harp, and liked it. (Just last Tuesday, E and I found ourselves dining in another Irish restaurant in downtown Annapolis; this is the dining room attached to my favorite bar, the Galway Bay Pub. I ordered Harp again (this time to accompany more traditional Irish fare) and told E that I glad that I finally know which beer to order. I think it's about time since I'm 30. When I added that it was something more than Coors Light, he made a face. I usually do what I want, but if out with a guy or had one over my place and I was drinking this previous favorite, they usually made the same face and I wished I liked something more respectable!)

Anyway, it was truly fantastic to show E a place I love. At dinner, he told me that he could see why I liked it so much. I was so happy to visit the Christmas market during the holiday season with the perfect partner. It was exactly how I wanted to celebrate Christmas.

Photo Credit: E

Other notable mentions in Christmas gifts include... the laptop that my parents gave me and the wine membership my sister set me up with. I truly needed to replace my old netbook. Since my siblings and I are rather poor, we exchanged names. Only my brother was supposed to get me something, but my sister did as well. I was touched by her thoughtfulness. She signed me for a service that delivers two bottles of red wine to my door a month for six months. Since drinking red wine is a near-daily habit and I do not have my own car to pick up bottles, it's so nice to have them delivered to me! If I walked to the liquor store myself, liquids tend to be among the heavier items to carry back.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflections on 2014 and Resolutions for 2015

Happy New Year!

I had a fabulous 2014 for a few reasons.

First, an international trip certainly makes my year. I was so thrilled to have traveled to Paris with Elizabeth in celebration of my 30th birthday in April. I covered it in a series called French Friday. It is such a beautiful city, from the macarons to the monuments.

I also met and dated E, which you will have a short update on in a post coming soon. 

2014 is the year I turned 30 and I am loving this decade so far. I truly do strive to become the woman I am meant to be on a daily basis. In November, I finally felt comfortable in my skin. I become more chic with each passing day. 

Here on the blog, I had a full year of sharing my simple pleasures on Sundays. I plan to continue this series into 2015.

My Resolutions for 2014 were:

1. To lose weight. 
Success! Like 2013, I ended 2014 with a four pound weight loss. That means only four more to go until I hit my goal weight and weighing a total of twelve pounds less that I intended two years ago, at the beginning of January 2013.

I'd actually like to lose those last four, but not by year end, by bikini season instead. I probably did lose all that weight during late September but then regained some during the last two months of the year. One of my resolutions this year regards an eating habit and it very well might take care of those pesky last few pounds for good.

2. To move back to Philly. 
I tried, but failed. I also think that this was meant to be.

I still very much desire to escape my hometown, but stay tuned for where I may end up next. 

3. To enjoy my 30th birthday in Paris. 
I had such a great time! I will always cherish such wonderful memories as sitting on a bench in the beautiful Louvre "courtyard" savoring a delicious pain au chocolat and cappuccino breakfast. 

I would like to return to this enchanting city many times, but at least once more with a significant other for a romantic trip.

My Resolutions for 2015 are:

1. To branch out in cooking. 
You already know about this commitment as I introduced my intention here. I resolve to increase the number of dishes I depend on, to make at least 50 new recipes from late 2014 through 2015. I have followed six recipes so far. These include: beef and broccoli, brookies, coffee cake, cranberry scones, cut-out sugar cookies, and turkey. I plan on publishing a post on each one, even if the first attempt is a disaster and I do not want to try again. Posts for the last three dishes are coming soon, already in the works, in fact. You may also follow my progress on my Pinterest account as I have boards entitled Recipes to Try and Recipes Tried.

2. To master portion control. 
I usually install this on my list because I am accustomed to eating a lot at once. Even though I become better every day, I believe that it will always be a struggle. Specifically, I need a bit less at lunch and dinner and to stop eating until absolutely stuffed altogether. I do not need a second helping of pasta. If I order the lunch special of Chinese takeout, I should divide the dish and rice into two equal portions, instead of completely stuffing myself once.

3. To live more fearlessly.
For one, I have not driven a vehicle since August. I do not need to completely get over my fear of driving, but I do find this to be irrational. I am an independent woman and sometimes depending upon others for a ride does not align with my values. For starters, I can certainly borrow a vehicle from my family and face my fear once. Secondly, I need to stop worrying so much in general, even about messing up while attempting something new/being a beginner. Since I do love trying new things, I want to be much more open to adventure. Another thing is letting people in. As an INFJ, I'm rather private and don't truly express myself and if I do, they must be close to me plus like-minded. Sometimes, this way of being is so natural that I do not even realize I am holding back what I am thinking and feeling for fear of judgment. I have already started working on this the past couple of weeks. Diane von Furstenburg's mother, who survived a concentration camp, taught the famous fashion designer to be fearless. I want to channel DVF and every morning, intend to be more fearless throughout the day.

4. To work on my blog everyday.
I do not mean that I will publish every day, but at least work on it daily. I intend to be at my computer, writing. Even if my day is full of exciting events, I can, at the very least, snap a selfie of my outfit because, knowing me, I will have dressed up for the occasion. Gretchen Rubin, author of the books The Happiness Project and Happier at Home and the soon-to-be-released Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, notes that it is actually easier to do something every day than it is to do it every few days. I find this to be true. I do not type every day now and in publishing what I want to write, I am actually three months behind, plus nearly that far behind in replying to comments. (Yes, I am usually this hard on myself.) If this daily task results in more frequent posting, great. If it only makes posts better: more eloquent or enhanced with beautifully-styled edited pictures or even collages, that's wonderful as well. I love this outlet and I need to express myself creatively. It is also my desire to capture my 2015.

Resolutions are what you deal with daily and do not really finish; you just improve upon them. Conversely, goals can be accomplished, checked off a to do list, so you can move onto working towards the next dream. This is another thing I learned from Gretchen Rubin that stuck with me. Read what she has to say about the difference here. And so, I would like to present my goals for this year...

My Goals for 2015 are:

1. To score a new job and move out of my hometown.
I am formulating a plan but must time it right. If it pans out, I predict I will be incredibly happy.

2. To have a physical exam.
My family tend not to take care of themselves and as a result, combined with heredity, are each diagnosed with multiple ailments. I want to be healthy and lead a long life. My blood pressure has been measured as high whenever I have visited the urgent care center or doctor for awhile now. Hypertension is rampant in my family, especially among the women on my mother's side. I need to visit the doctor for this reason alone. I was in the habit of a physical every year or two based upon what my doctor recommended, but now I can't remember when my last general exam was... I would like to set a deadline. Let's say... I should go to my appointment by my birthday on April 15, 2015.

I think that 2015 will be amazing. Even though I became comfortable in my own skin in November, I foresee myself truly blossoming in a new chapter of my life. People often say that the upcoming year will be their year, but I truly feel it will for me.

It will be a time of transition for me. ...which I am so ready for (as you can imagine since I seriously wanted to move to Philadelphia for so long). Still, I need to adjust to major change. I also think the new year will be about love too, which is different for the chronically single gal I used to be! I need to be patient at the moment, but hope the delay isn't too long. I am relishing my current status anyway. I realize this is a lot of mystery at the moment. Sounds like you should definitely stay tuned to italiagal! Have a fabulous 2015!

Check out my similar posts over the past several years:
Reflections on 2013 and Resolutions for 2014
Reflections on 2012 and Resolutions for 2013
Reflections on 2011 and Resolutions for 2012
New Year's Resolutions [for 2011]

At this time marking the end of one year and the start of another, I also wanted to express my sincere gratitude for reading. Grazie.