Sunday, November 29, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Holiday Pinterest Project

As part of my Christmas decor this year, I wanted to recreate this simple faux floral arrangement that I found on Pinterest. This is not the first time a pin has inspired a holiday centerpiece.

A white pitcher acts as a vase for several branches of red berries. I intended this to serve as a centerpiece for my dining room table. I love to use red berries as decoration during winter, which is fitting since my holiday decor is usually red with touches of white and silver.

I recreated this DIY project today. This is my version...

After I threw a load of laundry in the washer at my parents' place this afternoon, I borrowed a vehicle and drove to Michaels. In addition to some pieces that will make my Christmas gifts quite cute, I purchased five stems of red berries. They were only $3.99 a stem! When I returned home, I removed all the green leaves and then shortened the stems with a pair of pliers. I also cut off the clusters with white spots, where they had lost their red glaze. Next, I found a piece of styrofoam in a closet which I cut smaller with a kitchen knife and placed inside the pitcher. Then, I tried my best to arrange the stems into basically a dome, poking the ends into the foam a bit. Even though it is much more full than my inspiration, it could still benefit from a sixth stem... I was also happy to utilize my beloved white pitcher from HomeGoods. It tends to hold flowers much more than a beverage. I like how this arrangement turned out and I think I'll keep it on the table throughout the season...

While I do enjoy decorating my home a bit for Christmas, I simply haven't yet. I usually accomplish this activity sometime during the week of Thanksgiving, so it feels late to me. Other than this project, I only have a red berry wreath hanging on my front door so far. I was waiting for the opportunity to acquire these red berries, sure, but I think I have wanted to embrace autumn a little bit longer this year. We had 60 degree (F) weather only yesterday! It feels more like winter today in the 40s though. Also, I kinda wanted to photograph my apartment home as it normally is, before decking my halls, but the light wasn't good today on my day off, rainy all day. Plus, a cloudy day is forecasted tomorrow, my other day off. It's been awhile since I showed my home on the blog and I'm so intent on moving out of town. It was a dream come true to have my own apartment and I do want to capture the home I created. Really, my holiday decor is fairly minimal due to a tight budget. Anyway, I'm sure Christmas spirit will take over me pretty soon and I will indulge in my decorating tradition. ...hopefully fueled by my first cup of hot chocolate!

*Edit: I bought a sixth stem Monday afternoon ...and what a difference it makes!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Baci Chocolates

I picked up a bag of Baci chocolates at HomeGoods a little while ago and have been slowly savoring them ever since. Now, I only have a few left! Baci are made by Perugina in Perugia, Italy. The name Baci means "kisses" in Italian. The singular is bacio. I've written about Ferrero Rocher, which is a similar product. Each Bacio is a dark chocolate shell covering both a mixture of milk chocolate and bits of hazelnut and a whole hazelnut on top. There's a small piece of translucent plastic with navy printing wrapped around each chocolate. It's actually a note or quote about love, which is translated into three other languages. One of mine reads, "Being loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone gives you courage." --Lao-Tzu. Both the confection and love note are wrapped in silver and navy foil embellished with stars. I feel like Baci are romantic while Ferrero Rocher are classy. There's room for both in my life!

Usually, I eat one of these decadent treats as dessert to a lunch or dinner. I had a new friend over for dinner Friday night and for an easy yet elegant dessert, I served a small plate of chocolates: Lindt's dark chocolate Lindor balls, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and these Baci. I actually introduced her to them that evening. I scored a three-pack of the Ferrero Rocher cheap, with a Cartwheel discount a few weeks ago. I wouldn't mind keeping either of the hazelnut chocolates in stock through the holiday season...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Watching Last Love

I was playing around on my phone yesterday afternoon, scrolling through The Simply Luxurious Life's Simple Pleasures Pinterest board. Shannon calls each one a Petit Plaisir though. When I discovered that a film she savored was set in Paris, I planned to rent Last Love on Amazon Instant Video that evening. And I did enjoy viewing it Saturday night.

With the recent attacks, my social media feeds are filled with Parisian and French images. I actually took a small social media break on Friday. Going without facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for about thirty hours as well as not owning a TV, I probably missed many posts and a lot of the coverage. Still, my thoughts are often there, in that beauty of a city. My heart breaks for the people of Paris, as well as for all the victims of this terrible tragedy. #prayforparis #peaceforparis

Jean Jullien
Instagram via Pinterest

I liked Last Love, but I can see how not everyone would. This drama focuses upon an elderly gentleman named Matthew Morgan, played by Michael Caine, who lost his wife a few years ago. She was everything to him. Becoming rather reclusive and not trying new things, he sure wasn't taking it well. Even though he met with a language partner regularly, he pretty much refused to speak French while living in Paris. A retired philosophy professor from Princeton, he was well-to-do and his apartment was absolutely stunning. As was the Parisian background! The film was beautifully photographed. One day, he meets a young Parisian woman named Pauline, played bClémence Poésy, who happens to speak English fluently, teaches dance, and craves the family she no longer has. Becoming friends, their unlikely connection is life-changing. Not only about friendship, the story is about family. His relationships with his son and daughter are dysfunctional and Pauline throws herself in the middle of the mess between Matthew and his son Miles. Overall, this film moves along slowly. To me, it's real rather than boring. You do care about the characters because they are so well-developed plus the acting is wonderful. It's incredibly emotional. I didn't care for the ending, which contrasted with the whole rest of the movie. It was quick and (a little mysterious but) neat. Nonetheless, I do recommend this foreign film.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Winter 2015-2016 Reading List

In the event that I am snowed in this winter, I would love a good book and a cup of decadent hot chocolate. In order to prepare, I have compiled a selection of six books for the season. Oh, and check out my fall and summer reading lists. More book reviews are coming.

Michelle's Winter Reading List:

 ...or jump in the queue for it at the library

Maybe in Another Life was a book recommendation from theSkimm. It is about a woman and the two different lives she could possibly have led based upon her decision at an event. I placed a hold on this novel at the library. Hopefully, it'll be my turn to borrow it soon!

Available on Amazon or at your local library

I figure that when I pick up the first book on this list from the library, I will also check out this one. The Alchemist is an international best seller that I have yet to read. The main character Santiago is a shepherd who goes on a quest for treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. I find that both it and the author Paulo Coelho are frequently quoted, a fact that lead me to consider this choice. Its central message of discovering one's destiny earned it a place on this list.

Of the MBTI, I am an INFJ personality type. This author is an authority on the subject and I look forward to learning even more about myself as well as how I can improve. I plan to purchase the affordable Kindle version of The Empathic INFJ


Since I adored A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable, I pre-ordered the Kindle version of I'll See You in Paris almost as soon as I discovered it! This new novel will be released on February 9, 2015. It follows three women who lived at different times, yet are somehow connected. Read my review of A Paris Apartment here.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon or at the library when released

Tracy Chevalier is one of my favorite authors. Her previous seven works of historical fiction are amazingly vivid. I am have been devoted to her ever since I devoured Girl with a Pearl Earring which I randomly plucked off the bookshelf at the Virgin Records store in New York as a teenager. Even though At the Edge of the Orchard is set on the American frontier instead of a European locale, I still anticipate reading it. The story follows a pioneer family during the mid-1800s. This novel will be released on March 15th, just a few days prior to the spring equinox. I placed a hold on this title at the library and am the first in line.

                                                       Available on Amazon

Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide by blogger Shannon Ables has been on my reading list for the past couple of seasons. I did read my paperback copy awhile ago, but still want to read it again in order to take notes for myself as well as to publish a book review. It's about achieving the life we want by making conscious choices. A kindred spirit, the author and I both enjoy savoring a chocolate truffle.

Let me know if I have just have to read something in the comments section.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Watching Kate Spade #missadventure Videos

I adore the Kate Spade New York #missadventure videos starring actress Anna Kendrick. The script is funny, plus the fashion is fabulous. I love her celebrity co-stars too. And I can't forget the dog! All of the short films are set during the holiday season and four have been released so far. Let's hope there's more!

The first one is my favorite...

The second episode...

The third one...

And finally the fourth...
Only Anna Kendrick can tell someone she looks mean and then make friends with her!

I realize that these are first world problems, but I like that the message is making the best of any situation.

I love the Kate Spade brand for its aesthetic. I do own the Kate Spade 2015 planner that I use daily. It allows me to stay on top of my home chores, beauty regime and social activities, in style. I love the exterior stripes, interior dots and monthly messages. Next year's agenda is actually on my amazon wishlist. A friend also gave me a Kate Spade candle, which is long gone, but I kept its candle-holder, which has polka dots and reads "Escape the ordinary." Maybe I'll own more from this lovely brand someday... I think I would opt for a classic black leather tote over the ($400!) gnome clutch from episode 3 (even though I have loved gnomes since watching David the Gnome before PM kindergarten!).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review: Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic

I highly recommend Jennifer L. Scott's latest book Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance. This third installment in the Madame Chic series focuses on poise, that admirable "certain something" an individual may possess. Such a comprehensive take on the topic, I don't believe that she left anything out! From how to walk in heels to how to eat difficult foods, this book is overflowing with tips. Her anecdotes are well chosen and make me feel like I can relate and furthermore, actually cultivate poise for myself in my real life. Living in a chic manner means practicing poise. In reading this book, I had the following thoughts...

First of all, while reading, I'm exclaiming "study abroad changes lives!" in my mind. Like Jennifer, I'm not the same person I was prior to spending some time in a foreign country. After studying in Pescara, Italy, my days are now infused with an Italian sweetness. This particular experience has the power to transform you. If you have not read any of the Madame Chic series (do!), you should know that Jennifer's host mother during her semester abroad in Paris is Madame Chic. This woman serves as the author's example on how to live well. Now, Jennifer is not only an example herself to her fans, but she wholeheartedly promotes her important message. The author wants her reader to then be an example for his or her "viewers," the people who see and hear you. The author urges that anyone can achieve poise as well as the life you have always dreamed of. In changing your life, you also "change the world" (269). She closes the book with this incredible thought.

I have long hoped to become a charming person. After reading this book, I realize that being poised is what I meant. I desire to be an amazing hostess whenever I entertain. In everyday life, I wish to speak well, maintain calmness during a frustrating conversation, keep eye contact, and simply be adored. I also want to look the part, both in my personal appearance and in my home. Jennifer stresses that this trait is always a work-in-progress. As an INFJ, I prefer things finished, but I need to consider all this more a journey than a destination. Thankfully, I am not a beginner in terms of cultivating poise, but I can still learn a lot from this fantastic book. If you want any of those things too, then I suggest you pick up a copy of this handbook because she covers them.

Another excellent point Jennifer makes is to practice poise even when no one is watching, including at home alone, because this is when you are your most authentic self. Making something a habit means it's natural to you. (Check out the self-discipline series on her blog The Daily Connoisseur.) Then, this routine easily sets you up for public behavior. I live alone and work close to where I live, so I spend a major amount of time without anyone around, making this point of what you do in private matters more crucial. My posture while dining is awful. Tired from my productive day, I hunch over my meal, elbows or forearms leaning on the table edge. This is certainly an area where I can employ some self-discipline. Jennifer writes, "By sitting up straight, you will elevate the elegance of your meal" (119). I should try to improve my posture in order to lead a more chic life.

Like Jennifer, Paris left a major impression on me. The city is truly all about beauty, from the little things like breads to the big things like bridges. Now that I've visited, I feel like I have a delicious secret: I've seen the beauty that is Paris. In this guide, Jennifer says the first thing to concentrate on is appearance. To make an effort. She pushes her readers to put their best foot forward. This is a very Italian idea, fare la bella figura, literally means "to make a beautiful figure." Even though I have heard her consistent refrain of "look presentable always" before, do I think she should have left it out? Definitely not. It's important and she explains it effectively. This is crucial for those who have just discovered this blogger/author. Also, I think Jennifer's devoted fans will still find plenty of new takeaways in this book. Anyway, she urges the reader to put some thought into her own style via the ten-item wardrobe. A poised person is "appropriately dressed for every occasion" (51). I enjoyed the included ways to tie a scarf, complete with directions. I wear a scarf almost every day during the fall, winter and spring, but wear it the same way. From clothes to cups, Jennifer insists that an individual uses her best everyday. If she does, then her comfort zone will be grow bigger soon ...which makes perfect sense! Throughout the book, she even addresses that negative voice in your head, how to get you to move past the objection, from dressing yourself to entertaining others. Making things and experiences beautiful is worth it.

The author does provide a specific challenge: to invite someone over for tea. I grew up drinking iced sweetened Lipton black tea at the family dinner table. In my own apartment home, I have the decaffeinated variety of these tea bags stored in an apothecary jar inside my kitchen cabinet. Other than those two things, I've never been really into tea. This subject does pique my interest though... I think I might actually do it. Since reading the book, I have prepared for such an event in several ways. First, I pinned a couple of tea party ideas on Pinterest (here and here) and googled how to serve the beverage. Today, I purchased a box of Twinings Irish Breakfast tea bags to start. (On a budget and while saving money, I tend to purchase pantry items a little at a time.) Having installed a tea kettle on my shopping wish list on my phone, I bet I could pick up a shiny red one from HomeGoods or Target... I only have white cups and saucers, but since my mother is an antique dealer, I could possibly do the mismatched thing. For years, I've owned a plain tiered tray from Ikea that's still in the box. Once assembled, I picture this tray holding a few delicacies. I love my grocery store's simple chicken salad which I could put on slices of baguette with the crusts cut off. Or perhaps I could serve "panini" (or maybe just good ungrilled bread) with roasted red pepper, mozzarella, prosciutto and basil or arugula? My new recipes include cranberry scones and coffee cake, which would work well for afternoon tea. To possibly accompany the scones, I added Bonne Maman preserves to My Cartwheel (app at Target). Trying something new while eating through tiers of savory and sweet food sounds pretty good to me! Thanks for the idea, Jennifer!

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic is a lovely book and reading it was a simple pleasure of mine. Jennifer is passionate about this subject and that certainly comes through in this inspiring book. If you haven't already, definitely read it. I also hope it is as life-changing for you as I predict it will be for me. #madamechic

*Edit: Grazie, Jennifer for mentioning this post on facebook and for your kind words.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Reading Jennifer's Latest Book

Her three books on my bookshelf.

I am a huge fan of Jennifer L. Scott, the blogger behind The Daily Connoisseur and author of the Madame Chic series. Her latest book, Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic: Lessons in Everyday Elegance came out on Tuesday. I had pre-ordered my copy back in June. This past week, I read and enjoyed this wonderful book.

It was my intention for this post to also serve as my review, but I haven't managed to put it together yet. You can expect a glowing review soon though!