Sunday, October 25, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Reading a Magazine

I picked up a magazine at Target, with a Cartwheel discount, last weekend. I bought Real Simple, which is one of my favorites. How to Make Time for What Matters This Season on the cover spoke to me.

In addition to this type of magazine, I also favor travel, home decor and fashion ones. My favorite fashion one would be InStyle. When out, I used to buy a magazine regularly. It was a true simple pleasure for me. I grew up with a subscription to something, from American Girl to Seventeen. Most recently, I was subscribing to Budget Travel until they switched from print to being an e-magazine. I rarely purchase them anymore, maybe one once or twice a year. I am likely to buy one for the beach in the summertime. The January issue for O, The Oprah Magazine may inspire my new year's resolutions. On a trip, I might grab one at the airport or train station.

I rarely get a magazine anymore for a couple of reasons. First, around $5 a pop, it's a rare indulgence for budget reasons. Second, I felt like I stopped reading fashion magazines so much when I read the book The One Hundred by Nina Garcia and became increasingly interested in cultivating my own style. I was further dedicated to only choosing a few pieces that are classic over trendy. Sometimes, fashion magazines portraying temporary fads were a disappointment and felt like a waste of money.

I enjoyed reading the November issue last Monday afternoon, on my day off. I also look forward to finishing this out-of-the-ordinary treat over the next couple of days while taking vacation days, staying at my parents' place dogsitting the family dog Minnie. Unfortunately, I've had a cold for the past three days so hopefully I won't be flipping the pages in bed; I prefer a coffee shop, or at least on the sofa with a hot cup of tea. Hopefully, I'll wake up back to normal tomorrow. From reading this issue, I rearranged some food inside the refrigerator. I also thought the detailed guide on party guest etiquette was informative. Several pages of beautiful table linens was a bit more fun. It's a good issue. I recommend it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

As a kid, my favorite book series was Sleepover Friends, which was about four girls who had sleepovers every Friday. One of the main characters was Stephanie, who exclusively wore black, white and red. The colors in a capsule wardrobe should be limited so that each piece goes with nearly everything else, but I wouldn't go quite as far as Stephanie did. I need a few extra neutrals including charcoal and chocolate, plus a pinch of other pop colors like pink and purple. As usual, the core items and extras of my wardrobe this season are basically black and white with pops of warm color.

black and white with red trim
This is my new apron from etsy shop Aquamorcouture.
This is only my second apron, but I wear them often.

Retailers tend to feature burgundy every autumn. Over the past several months, I'm so pleased that my favorite clothing store Ann Taylor featured a few versions of this color, including a rich red called Dark Ruby (love!), followed by the darker earthy Chianti, and currently debuting a true burgundy called Classic Plum. I love that one of my pop colors this autumn is reminiscent of the wine (grape) harvest! Perfetto. 

I basically follow the rules for such a wardrobe set by Jennifer L. Scott. More information can be found on her blog The Daily Connoisseur as well as in her books Lessons from Madame Chic and At Home with Madame Chic. Definitely check out her fashion show and subsequent talk-through.

Jennifer's wardrobe consists of something like ten core items. Having 11 in her fall/winter wardrobe this year, she maintains that ten is meant to be more of an idea than a rule. You should be mindful about what you wear and only include what makes you feel fabulous. Ten doesn't work well for me and my lifestyle; I need a bit more. My current laundry schedule is only once a week. Plus, the dress code at my full-time job is business casual. At home, I am usually more casual. Since I am very 'work to live,' I have a life and wish to dress with some thought on social occasions. Even though the combinations add variety, it's still nice to have options hanging in my closet.

I have seen my number of core items in my wardrobe decline over the time I've blogged such posts, to anywhere from 15 to 21 pieces each season this year. Ideally, I would love to be crazy about just 15 beautiful articles of clothing of high quality. That number is certainly attainable in the winter when I cut down on skirts and dresses, opting for pants instead. Like I said, I will strive to feature 15 every season in the future, but, still, I'm not going to stress over the number. Calling it my "capsule wardrobe" seems more fitting than a "ten-item" one. Among my extras, I also hope to further narrow it down from thirteen tees this fall to ten this winter.

Like Jennifer, I also scored my new stuff on sale. I find the item(s) I want and then stalk the store online and/or my email inbox until the item is discounted. Only then, will I add it to my virtual shopping cart or possibly pick it up in-store. This is crucial for my budget. As a result, I have been patiently creating this wardrobe for months. I suppose many other people think like the two of us because once on sale, I ordered this one top a couple of times (online and phone) and then received an email stating it was actually out of stock and they couldn't fulfill my order each time. Fortunately, the third time's the charm! I just received it today. Luckily, it's entirely lovely. Definitely worth the wait! I will probably wear it once a week during the fall, winter, and spring. Anyway, this particular situation happened to delay this post even longer. Finally, may I present my closet this fall...

My Closet
Core Items and Some of thee Extras 

Michelle's 17-Item Fall 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

1. white long sleeve Perfect Shirt from Ann Taylor

2. pink, red and black short sleeve wrap top from Ann Taylor Factory Store

3. new black 3/4 sleeve Tie-Neck Top from Talbots

4. dark brown cross-over 3/4 sleeve sweater from LOFT

5. new black long sleeve Sheer Pleated Blouse from LOFT

6. black Wrap Jersey Top from Boden

7. new v neck All-Season Stretch Sleeveless Sheath Dress from Ann Taylor

8. new black Seamed Pencil Skirt from Ann Taylor

9. dark gray pencil skirt from H&M

10. black paneled skirt from The Limited

11. brown wool A-line skirt with embroidered dark brown line design from LOFT

12. dark blue boot cut Modern Fit jeans in petite from Ann Taylor

13. blue 515 Bootcut jeans with studs on back pockets by Levi's from eBay

14. dark blue 515 Bootcut jeans in regular by Levi's from JCPenney

15. black ankle pants by Mossimo from Target

16. new dark gray Modern Fit pants in petite by Worthington from JCPenney

17. black Classic Fit pants by Merona from Target


1-4. new Sonoma life + style Everyday Camisole in New White from Kohl's
5. white Clean Cami from LOFT
6. dark pink Sonoma life + style Everyday Camisole from Kohl's
7. dark pink from LOFT
8. new dark pink/wine Sonoma life + style Everyday Camisole from Kohl's
9. red from LOFT
10. new black Clean Cami from LOFT
11. new black Sonoma life + style Everyday Camisole from Kohl's
12. black silky lacy from White House Black Market
13. black with white polka dots and lace trim by White House Black Market

1. white Essential Short Sleeve Scoop from Boden
2. black and white striped boat neck long sleeve from Sweden Collection by Chance Co.
3. new ivory and black striped boat neck Long Sleeve Breton from Boden

4. new white and midnight navy (dark night) long sleeve Modern stripe boatneck tee from Gap

5. new dark ruby Cotton Boatneck Tee with elbow sleeves from Ann Taylor

6. new rust (berry maroon) long sleeve Ultimate V T-Shirt by Merona from Target

7. purple 3/4 Sleeve Double Layer Crossover Tee by Merona (or Cherokee) from Target
8. grey and white striped boat neck 3/4 sleeve from H&M
9. grey v neck by L.O.G.G. from H&M
10. black v neck short sleeve by Merona from Target
11. new soft black boat neck 3/4 sleeve Bateau Tee from LOFT

12. black v neck long sleeve by L.O.G.G. from H&M
13. black scoop neck long sleeve from Express

1. black crew neck in Italian Cashmere that is a bit cropped from J.Crew
2. black crew neck (with large buttons I don't like) from Target
3. dark yet bright pink crew neck from LOFT

Jackets, Blazers and Trenches
1. new black 7th Avenue Design Studio Signature Fit One Button Jacket with ribbon detail and white polka dotted sleeve lining from New York & Company
2. black one button blazer with black and white striped sleeve lining by Stylus from JCPenney
3. tan belted 3/4 sleeve safari jacket from The Limited
4. dark gray two button suit jacket from Ann Taylor Factory Store
5. black two button suit jacket from The Limited
6. dark brown corduroy two button blazer from Espirit
7. khaki belted single breasted trench from Banana Republic Factory Store
8. black single breasted trench from H&M

1. terra cotta silk/cashmere blend by Tie Rack London
2. dark pink
3. red from The Limited
4. dark red with subtle large dots from Target
5. purple
6. ivory
7. black and white geometric printed polyester from The Limited
8. black with white polka dots from LOFT Outlet

1. black/brown reversible from Target
2. black skinny bow from White House Black Market
3. black wide braid from The Limited

Special Occasion Wear (#3-8 are all knee-length)
1. burgundy sweater with black lace top in petite from Ann Taylor
2. black tailored top with sheer scarf and sleeves from White House Black Market

3. black sleeveless dress with origami folds from White House Black Market
4. black sleeveless dress with radiating folds from neckline by Mossimo from Target
5. black long sleeve faux wrap dress with pin by American Living from JCPenney
6. black lace boat neck dress with long sheer lace sleeves from The Limited
7. black short sleeve wrap dress from Ann Taylor
8. black lace on cream skirt with some sequins from Ann Taylor

Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere

Many pieces including an Anne Klein watch and a pair of cubic zirconia studs that I wear nearly every day. Having just decluttered my collection of earrings, I now only have 14 pairs. (Narrowed down by their storage space, I keep each one in its own compartment in the top tray of my jewelry armoire.) I also wear my long silver necklace with studded bows from Ann Taylor with many of my boat neck tees. My new piece is a Pavé Bangle Bracelet that I picked up this summer from The Limited.

Heeled boots and ballet flats are among my small collection of shoes.

Black faux leather tote from Aldo. Also, cotton totes for shopping and overnights elsewhere as well as clutches for evening.

New Red Nail Polishes
Amore at the Grand Canal from the Venice Collection for Fall/Winter 2015 by OPI
Red Hot Rio from Brazil Collection for Spring/Summer 2014 by OPI

I've been talking about considering my style classic with a touch of femininity for years now. Little by little, the contents of my closet continue to evolve in that direction, especially in regards to silhouette this season. For example, I'm increasingly comfortable in a blouse that is not as form-fitting as usual. I remember choosing that sheer pleated black blouse worn over a black camisole for not one, but two family dinners. On the other hand, a pencil skirt shows off more of my curves than I'm used to.

Even though I am publishing my capsule wardrobe post, holes remain in my small shoe collection due to budget. I don't own flat boots nor a classic nude pump. Of those two, I am trying to look for dressy black boots with a low heel, perhaps to order with my next paycheck. Last winter was far too cold for ballet flats paired with trouser socks at work (where I often walk outside to different buildings) and walking to the store, but I did it anyway. Knee-high boots would be ideal, but they are expensive and I'm trying to save money. Plus, my selection would be limited because I would need a wide-calf pair. Even though I hate the look of ankle boots (or "booties"), they could definitely be mostly covered up by black pants or bootcut jeans. No one would know they weren't knee-high unless I hiked up my pant legs. I think this option at a fraction of the price of knee-highs would work, especially beyond fall, for the coldest days of the year.

Do you employ a capsule wardrobe?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Book Review: Eating Rome

From my fall reading list, I read Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City by Elizabeth Minchilli and loved it. Sometimes reading a book is like chatting with a friend and this is the case with Eating Rome. She's down-to-earth and the book flows quickly. Plus, you're drawn to the author because she's so passionate about her subject. I would turn to this friend for her expertise. Each chapter starts with a story about a meal, food, or lesson often featuring a 'how to' guide or a run-down of the rules (oh, the Italians and their rules!), is followed by restaurant recommendations and ends with recipes. Her book covers a range of topics plus it's an insider's guide. For a more authentic experience, this book would be wonderful to read before visiting Rome. In fact, I think I will take notes from it whenever I draft my own itinerary for this city.

By living in the eternal city a long time and being fully immersed in the Italian culture, she came to know Italians well. I can relate to her perspective since she is American-born. Her anecdotes are entertaining. They reminded me of my old study abroad days... Especially when I declined being served a certain kind of beverage (think grappa), the Italians became so concerned about the opening or closing of my stomach during a meal. I kept thoughts such as, "I think my stomach knows what to do when I eat..." to myself.

Being a picky eater myself, even though Italian cuisine is my favorite, I still don't know a lot about it. I wish that the author would have provided a bit more explanation about several foods than she did. I can't say, however, that I was completely stumped since I could figure it out in the context. I do recommend the kindle version, so that if the word is in English, you can tap the term and a dictionary-style definition will pop up. This book might be geared towards an Italophile. For example, even though she used the term throughout the book, she doesn't define guanciale as "cured pork jowl" until halfway through. Not that she doesn't go into great detail, she does. She notes which specific dish she always orders at a certain restaurant during a particular time of year and even what could possibly go wrong in making a dish.

I'm not exactly sure if I should completely trust the author on her taste though... She fancies to feast upon... offal, which means 'organs.' On the other hand, Elizabeth does savor gelato and apertivo (a happy hour (bitter) drink and accompanying snack usually served buffet-style). Perhaps I should give a recipe a try before I judge...

I recommend this book for its charm and expertise as well as making me want to hop on a plane and land at Fiumicino (also known as Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome)! Don't leave Rome without it!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: Summer Sisters

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume was on my summer reading list and I did read it during August. Having ordered a cheap paperback copy, I intended to read it lying on the beach. Busy during this particular season, I managed to schedule a day to hit a beach just about half an hour's drive away, but, unfortunately, ended up canceling to visit my grandfather in the hospital instead (who is now OK). It would have been the perfect beach read. I remember reading a bit of it outside though, while tanning in my parents' backyard. Anyway, it was good and I recommend it.

It's the story of two very different young girlfriends who spend their summers together on Martha's Vineyard. Most of the book is a flashback. I am drawn to books that depict a long friendship. This work of fiction keeps your interest throughout. The characters feel real and the reader can relate to them or at least their situations. Who describes adolescence better than Judy Blume? She talks about coming of age and anything sex-related so frankly. Pick up this salacious book but save it for summer.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Signature Sunday: Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere

My signature scent is Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere Eau de Parfum. I have been wearing it almost every single day for the past four and a half years. Read how I discovered it here. Its light perfumy smell makes me feel feminine. Even though many women change their signature scent to reflect different phases in their lives, I predict that I will always wear this fragrance.

I adore Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel and love that the related Chanel No. 5 is the ultimate classic. I love that the eau premiere formula is a modern twist of a classic item. That's what I try to do with almost everything! I gravitate towards classic items but may either tweak them slightly in order to update them or seek out little details which make items special. Either way, I'm intentionally making things my own. My signature.

Monday, October 12, 2015

New Recipe #15: Roasted Red Peppers

My favorite vegetable is the red bell pepper. Every week, I eat them either raw in a salad or sauteed in my pasta specialty. Many weeks, I enjoy them both ways. I have wanted to try roasting them for a long time. Since I am branching out in cooking and baking this year, it definitely made the list.

So versatile, roasted red pepper can go in pasta or a sandwich (a panino), but also top pizza. I have a different idea though... I intend it to be an option for my famous antipasti. I could roast the bell pepper ahead of time and store it in some good olive oil inside the fridge until needed. Then, when entertaining or making myself an easy dinner, I could pile slices into a small saucer/ramekin/bowl and then plop it onto a cutting board along with my other antipasti selections, such as cheese, crackers, prosciutto, salami, tomatoes, olives, etc. It would add a sweet element to the board.

One of my many antipasti spreads.
I'd likely place the peppers in that scalloped dish that the peanuts are in.

Here are a couple of antipasti platters featuring roasted red peppers...

(Need more antipasti inspiration? Definitely check out my Pinterest board.)

In addition to antipasti, I foresee roasted red pepper bruschetta in my future. I tend to only make classic bruschetta in the summer when the tomatoes are good. With roasted red pepper, I think I could make this appetizer all year round!

Roasting red peppers is so easy! I can't believe I have't done it before! I followed this recipe from Marin Mama Cooks that I found on Pinterest. I just roasted one today. I tend to cook/bake/make a food or drink item or two for the week on my day off on Monday. Short strips will likely end up in a simple pasta dish later in the week.

Roasted Red Peppers

1-4 red bell pepper(s)
1-2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (only needed if storing in the fridge)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Wash pepper(s).
3. Cut pepper(s) in half lengthwise.
4. Cut out stem and any white parts. Discard seeds.
5. Place pepper halves onto a parchment-lined baking sheet cut size down.
6. Roast for 25 minutes.
7. Let cool for a little bit and put them in a bowl.
8. Cover bowl with foil and cool completely for 30 minutes.
9. Peel off skins (which is pretty easy).
10. Use right away or store them in a some kind of tupperware/glass container with lid/plastic bag drizzled with an olive oil intended for dressing/marinating and then place inside the refrigerator.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Seeing a Movie in a Theater

I love to escape into a good book, and so I often find the following to be true...

This also happens to me after seeing a good movie. I especially felt this way after having exited a movie theater when I was growing up. I wanted quiet time to process every detail, both little and big, before even thinking about or doing anything else. I was motivated by the movie's lessons in life and love. Also, the fashion would inspire me to emulate a certain style or add a specific item, a skirt similar to one the main character wore for example, to my closet. Decades later, I am just articulating this feeling now! Even though I have a vivid imagination and can bring a book to life, a movie has a big impact on me. Probably since I studied art history for years and I am always seeking beauty, I am such a visual person. I love movies, almost as much as I do books.

However, because I strive to live below my means, I don't go out to the movies often. Before this week, I believe that the last time I sat in a movie theater was when E took me to see Guardians of the Galaxy probably during August 2014. I should note that both times, I was treated and am thankful. Going to the movie theater is expensive, in the neighborhood of $10 a ticket. Instead, I usually watch movies on my laptop or Kindle at home or on a TV at a friend's or family member's. With my Amazon Prime membership, I could possibly stream it for free. The theater's big screen is definitely an improvement in the viewing experience. Plus, it's nice that it's necessary to turn off my phone. Eliminating that distraction, I can simply enjoy my time. The novelty of the experience for me makes it special as well.

Last Monday, my mom took me to a matinee of The Intern. I wanted to see this movie since it was directed by Nancy Meyers, whose work I adore. I love her character development, especially how she often highlights a strong woman! Since I don't own a TV, I don't usually catch movie trailers. I discovered this film from Shannon of the blog The Simply Luxurious Life who wrote about wanting to see it. Shannon's right, I adore the meticulous settings this director uses in her work. My favorite Nancy Meyers film is The Holiday and I love the homes the main characters exchange at Christmas.

The Intern is about Robert De Niro's character Ben Whittaker who can't face retirement and scores an internship at a clothing store website called About The Fit founded and run by young Jules Ostin who is played by Anne Hathaway. I thoroughly enjoyed the film. First, the acting is wonderful. I love Anne Hathaway in this. Plus, their chemistry is truly fantastic. Some of their conversations about life are touching. It wasn't strictly about their differences; they actually worked together and truly needed one another as friends. The director shows that they respected one another so highly to set the tone as a 'feel-good' comedy. Above all, I was quite taken by Robert De Niro's old-fashioned gentlemanly charm. This is the highlight of the film for me. It is a comedy, and it's funny. Even though it kept my interest throughout, I can't see it doing so for every viewer however. Going in, I knew that this comedy was two hours and predicted that it was going to be a little too long. Its pace was definitely not quick. Since I loved the movie so much, it's hard for me to say it should be shortened, but, really, it should have been about an hour and a half. Like I said, I love movies, especially ones by Nancy Meyers, so, personally, I reveled in every minute of those two hours. Nonetheless, I do recommend it. I think it is worth the price of a movie ticket or whatever and that you would enjoy seeing it once (maybe twice).

Sunday, October 4, 2015

New Series: Signature Sunday: NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita

I am pleased to present a new series that I will publish on some Sundays, occasionally substituting a Simple Pleasure Sunday post. It is called... Signature Sunday. I often use the word signature and ones similar, such as quintessential, go-to, favorite. You can be search of your signature style, look, or scent. On each of these posts, I will feature a single tangible item that is very me. An object you see that readily identifies the italiagal. If you know me, at first glance, you think the thing is "so Michelle." It is something I am well-known for.

My first Signature item is NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita. Apparently, this is a cult classic... Not into trends, I just discovered it on Pinterest at the beginning of the summer. Of course, the Italian name, meaning "sweet life," definitely caught my eye. I was further intrigued that it was a natural sheer lip color that is highly reviewed. Many claim that it works on everyone. The shade is a dusty rose that has a bit more mauve to it than the dusty rose lipsticks I sometimes used back in middle and high school. I took a chance and ordered it (for $27!) on Amazon (through seller bluemercury, Inc.) in June. Thankfully, it's beyond perfect for me. Worth every penny. In fact, I just bought another one recently, so I could have one in my handbag (now that the hot summer is behind us) and the other in my bathroom cabinet. Used at least a couple of times daily, I only have about 1/3 of the first tube left though. It is actually the exact color of my bottom lip and one shade darker than my fair and thin top lip. My lips but better. It is very fitting for le no makeup look. This shade makes me feel natural yet polished. A sheer formula, it feels nice. I highly recommend this universally flattering and high quality product. For special occasions (and you know us lifestyle bloggers, a random Tuesday as well), I would like to find a lip color, like a classic red, where it looks like I'm wearing lipstick too, but Dolce Vita is great for everyday.

Usually, we don't get a lot of rain in my part of Maryland, but for the last week it poured. And then today, it's cloudy. I tried my best to take decent photos as well as capture the hue in such low light. I will try to take another selfie of me wearing Dolce Vita when the sun reappears tomorrow and then replace this one above. [Updated: replaced photo on October 5, 2015.]