Sunday, January 31, 2016

Beauty Regime Reminders

I am thrilled to answer a reader's question with a blog post. Keep 'em coming!

Just before the new year, Anonymous wrote:

One of my goals for 2016 is to actually stick to a beauty regime. I'm thinking a 1x weekly spa night in addition to daily basic upkeep, but would be very interested to learn what beauty reminders you schedule in your planner! 

I'm sure making written appointments with yourself helps you actually stick to your goals! I may have to try that, in pen, in my Lilly Pulitzer planner.

I always read that organized individuals love lists. They write everything down and your italiagal is no exception. Using lists is key to keeping track of my beauty routines. I check things off a couple of master lists rather than scheduling appointments. It's more flexible than how I accomplish my household chores where I both rely on lists and have developed habits on a set schedule. I will elaborate on that in a future post, hopefully to be published during February. 

I use both my phone and my planner to stay on top of beauty tasks outside of my daily routine.

My 2016 planner by Sugar Paper from Target on my desk.

I have five lists in a simple to do list app on my phone and they are: Chores, Weekly, Monthly, To Do, and Shopping List. My Weekly and Monthly lists primarily deal with my beauty regime. 

Under my Weekly tab:
  • Laundry (including washing pillow cases and shams that my face rests on)
  • Facial scrub first time
  • Facial scrub second time
  • Wash (and disinfect) makeup brushes
Under the Monthly tab:
  • Facial mask
  • Wash makeup bag
  • Hair conditioning treatment first time
  • Hair conditioning treatment second time
  • Manicure
  • Pedicure
  • Treatment of unwanted hair (I'm leaving this one a mystery on purpose.)
Also, I have the length of my hair trimmed 1/2 inch at a salon every 6 to 12 weeks.

These tasks and their frequency change over time and as needed. For example, I used to use a facial scrub three times a week because the text on the back of the tube reads, for best results use 3 to 4 times a week, but I cut down to two times as my skin doesn't need more exfoliation. I also used to apply a hair mask once a week until I switched to a product that yields better results. I am trying to only use my facial mask once a month for budget reasons, but tend to apply it twice a month since it works so well. After my 32nd birthday in April, I will likely start using a mild formula of an anti-aging retinol once a week. In addition, the seasons could alter my tasks too. A fresh pedicure is ideal for summer sandals, for example. I should add tasks like regularly washing my hair brush (rather than after I notice it's really needed). I believe in slowly adding more to your plate only after handling what you currently have well.

As I accomplish each beauty task, I mark it as completed on that master list in my phone app. This action shades the line item in gray and a line strikes through the words. I don't delete the task. I nearly always accomplish everything on these two lists by Saturday night or the last day of the month. On Sunday morning or the first day of the month, I mark each task as not completed and begin again. I believe that I get things done because they are written down/typed in some way. As a finisher, I enjoy checking things off as accomplished.

In addition to using my phone, I always write down the beauty task(s) I performed that day in the weekly section of my Sugar Paper planner from Target. Since I am goal-oriented, I try my best to sit down at my desk each morning and write down what I want to accomplish for that day (only). I will check it off when I do it or perhaps place a X beside the item I didn't do. I always write in pen. I am able to schedule an at-home manicure after work on any weeknight now that I've purchased a quick dry top coat. Half the time, I will write down the beauty task I just performed and then immediately check it off. A to done list. My beauty regime is not too scheduled yet, as in scheduling an appointment to exfoliate my face every Sunday night. Since my current flexible system works well for me, I'm not sure if it will become more scheduled. Although, a regular spa night does sound fun...

I tend to get things done as soon as the week or month starts. Work then play. For example, this past week, I used my facial scrub Sunday night, both marking it completed in my phone and writing facial scrub-1st-PM in my planner, and Monday morning, recording it as facial scrub-2nd-AM. Since I wear makeup every single day, I perform a facial treatment either early in the morning or late at night. I know it would be better to space out my tasks in order for them to be more beneficial, but right now, it's just important to me to get them done. In addition, I painted my toenails and applied my (first) facial mask on the 1st. This month, however, I did have to hurry up and get a few things done by the 31st. On the 30th, I treated my unwanted hair, applied a hair mask, and washed my makeup bag. Since I am what author Gretchen Rubin would call an Upholder, I respond to both inner and outer expectations, so I can hold myself accountable easily and regard both my week and month end deadlines as strict ones.

Let me know if you'd like to learn the beauty products I use in a beauty update post.

To my reader, thank you for your inquiry. I truly hope my explanation of what I do helps you in some way. Good luck in finding what works best for you.

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Wearing a Ciao Bella Sleepwear Top. And a Blog Announcement

On Wednesday morning, I was in Target cutting through the sleepwear section to get to the socks that were on my shopping list and braked for this cute gray v-neck t-shirt depicting a coral-colored vespa with a basket filled with flowers and the words Ciao Bella written underneath...

Decal detail.

Women's Sleepwear Knit Tee by Gilligan & O'Malley from Target
There's a 25% off Cartwheel app discount on women's sleepwear that I noticed today 
and expires on February 6th.

Usually, I employ self-discipline and don't buy anything not on my list, but I just had to make an exception for this cuteness. I don't own a lot of anything, pajamas included, so it was nice to add a piece. I've already worn it a few nights. Not into graphic prints much, I tend to like plain items or something with a classic print like stripes, polka dots or maybe quatrefoils. And the color must be just right. I prefer to be sophisticated rather than quirky, so I really have to like something when it's novelty. This might be my favorite sleepwear top to go with my printed Gilligan & O'Malley pajama pants for the next couple of seasons...

I've been working on some social media for this blog lately. I created a new Instagram account and facebook page. This Instagram account is different from my personal one. Please follow @theitaliagal on Instagram and facebook. I have also started a new Pinterest board on my personal Pinterest account. (If the owner of is truly not using her account and is reading this, then please consider deleting your account because I would simply love it.) I will post little extras on these sites. On IG, feel free to tag me using @theitaliagal. Or I would love for you to tag your own simple pleasures with #simplepleasuresunday. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

New Recipe #16: Marble Cake

My mom loves marble cake, so I decided to make one from scratch for her October birthday. I made this yellow and chocolate cake combination following a single recipe a couple of times that month, but, unfortunately, didn't like how either turned out. Each time, it ended up more like a yellow cake with a fudge swirl than a marble cake. All of the chocolate part was not completely cakelike. Following research, I even tweaked the chocolate part of the recipe the second time around. Boiling the water and adding more than the recommended two tablespoons so that the cocoa paste was more smooth did, in fact, improve its texture, but only a bit. Nonetheless, I served her the second attempt and she raved about it. I do agree that it was delicious, but it just was not what it was supposed to be. I used chocolate frosting from a can on her birthday cake rather than making the chocolate ganache included in the recipe. The recipe did provide excellent instructions to achieve a good swirled effect however. My marbling looked pretty good for the first two tries! I likely searched for a marble cake recipe and pounced on the one from The Kitchn since I adore their website and cookbook. Even though I was unable to perfect this particular recipe, I still remain a big fan of their easy-to-follow recipes and genius ideas.

A slice of my first try.

A slice of my second try.

I love cake myself. Cake on my birthday is a given. I also enjoyed making this dessert from scratch rather than using a mix real quick. Furthermore, this cooking commitment gave me an excuse to properly equip my kitchen. In order to make this recipe, I purchased a 9 x 5 loaf pan. I have become a loyal customer to this professional line of Wilton baking products available at Target. In fact, the day that I wrote this post, I bought a 12-cup muffin pan by the brand on sale. It's nice to finally possess the proper materials of decent quality at my disposal whenever I feel like baking!

You can find this recipe pinned to my Recipes Tried board.

Marble Cake
Recipe from The Kitchn
Baked in a 9 x 5 loaf pan

1/2 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
More butter for the pan
1 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. flour
More flour for the pan
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. cocoa powder
2 tbsp. hot water

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F.
2. Grease the loaf pan using a bit of butter and then flour it.
3. Add butter and sugar to a bowl and beat them until combined using an electric mixer.
4. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to a bowl and whisk to combine. 
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the butter and sugar mixture, beating after each addition.
6. Add the vanilla to this butter, sugar and egg mixture.
7. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Next, add 1/2 of the buttermilk and beat. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat. Then, add the last 1/2 of the buttermilk and beat. Finally, add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat.
8. Scoop 1/2 of the batter into another bowl. In a small bowl, mix the cocoa and the water until smooth. Add this chocolate mixture to the second bowl. Beat to make chocolate cake batter.
9. Beginning with the yellow cake batter, place four spoonfuls into the pan, creating a checkerboard.
10. Quickly place four spoonfuls of chocolate cake batter into those holes in the pan, creating a more contrasting checkerboard. 
11. Repeat with the second layer, placing a yellow spoonful on top of a chocolate one and vice versa this time.
12. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, swirl the batter to create the marble effect. Dip the end of the spoon into the batter at one end and make three big swirls across the pan in one direction, and then take it out. Dip the end in again and make three big swirls in the opposite direction and then take it out. Insert the end near a corner and move down the length of the pan, next cross the pan at a diagonal, then continue to move down the other length of the pan, and finally lifting it out, doing a "Z." Do not scrape the bottom.
13. Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan 20 minutes in. The cake is done when it is browned and a toothpick comes out clean.
14. Cool for 10 minutes and then invert to unmold and let it cool completely.
15. Place the cake on a serving platter and frost.
16. Slice and admire the marble.

Enjoy! Buon appetito!

I would really love to perfect a marble cake, for both my mom and me! Please let me know if you have any suggestions or recommend another recipe.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Sipping Hot Chocolate while Snowed In. And a Blog Announcement

I love having hot chocolate during winter. I've written about it previously: hereherehere, and here. At least!

As you may have heard on the news, Maryland was just hit with a blizzard, meaning snow and wind. My hometown got about 29 inches of snow. I work as a leasing professional at the apartment community where I live, so management expected me to keep the office open. Yes, during a blizzard. I didn't actually manage to rent an apartment... Although, I have sold luggage in one! Personally, I am in favor of closing down businesses whenever driving conditions are hazardous. Anyway, I waited on the maintenance guys who were plowing the streets and snow-blowing the sidewalks regularly, staying in the leasing office the entire weekend. I heated up the pot of chili that my boss made for them for dinner after my shift on Friday and for lunch during my shift on Saturday.

Blizzard conditions continue after 5 Saturday evening.

Since I worked my normal hours, I am catching up on enjoying being snowed in with a cup of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate cocoa topped with whipped cream yesterday evening and another this morning. Today's cup also featured chocolate drizzle. I served myself in the Essential Mug from Crate & Barrel which I love. Both cups were delicious.

I have an exciting blog announcement! You may have already noticed being redirected or the minor blog changes, but I still wanted to tell you guys. On Thursday evening, I purchased a custom domain. This blog's web address is now rather than what it used to be: I think this is more professional and serious, which reflects my dedicated and passionate personality. I still allow Blogger to host for me though. I wanted to mention it to both share my excitement and to make sure that I don't lose you as you might need to edit how you reach this blog. I love this blog and it is here to stay! I feel that it's now set in stone: I am the italiagal.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Reflections on 2015 and Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year!

2015 had its ups and downs for me. At the beginning of the year, E and I broke up. Dealing with that was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do, especially when I will still care for him forever. I am strong and that is all I have to say about that. Also, I didn't move out of my hometown, but, don't worry, that's still on the to do list, especially following how Shannon (of The Simply Luxurious Life) is head over heels in love with her new city of Bend, Oregon! Her glee is infectious. I didn't even manage to visit my beloved Philadelphia last calendar year. I've really missed this city lately and will have to plan a daytrip soon. 

Fortunately, 2015 was also filled with wonderful times and things. ...with books, movies, food, drink, friends, family, blogging, and simple pleasures. I continued trying new recipes throughout the year. A couple of them like the Quick & Easy Italian Pork Chops and Brookies are in regular rotation! In the spring, Elizabeth and I saw the stunningly beautiful cherry blossoms in DC as usual. I indulged in an epic shopping spree for my April birthday, which differed from my normal travel experience. A college friend visited me during the summer. I have always wanted to show F Annapolis and I'm glad she liked it. In October, I introduced an exciting new blog series, each highlighting a signature item of mine. Also during the fall, I made a new friend, something that is hard to do past age 22. Despite any low points this year, I am still reveling being in my 30s. I have always wanted to be grown up and now I feel like I have arrived. This year, I have employed self-discipline and developed habits to become a chic woman, a chic that appears effortless to many. I will, however, share many of my secrets in a post or two soon. Even though things could improve, I like to think that I live well for being as poor as I am (and saving money). I am trying to blog in an increasingly authentic way and I think my readers truly respond when I'm real.

My Resolutions for 2015 were:

1. To branch out in cooking. 
I resolved to try new recipes and I succeeded. However, I set a goal of making 50 new recipes from late 2014 through 2015 and actually only made 17 recipes, 18 if you count following a second recipe for a single dish. I still have two new recipes to post about, so expect them. You may also check out my Recipes Tried Pinterest board. I didn't do as many as intended because I often couldn't afford many new ingredients. As a result of this commitment, however, I acquired so many more pantry items and pieces of equipment. My kitchen is now much better off! I enjoy cooking, baking and the Italian art of arranging (think antipasti), so I had a good time keeping this resolution. I so missed childhood activities like making chocolate chip cookies from scratch, that I was happy to have had the excuse to have done them again. I'm not going to commit to a new cooking resolution or goal for 2016, but I'm definitely going to stay in the kitchen.

2. To master portion control.
This is my life struggle! While I still have many moments of pigging out and naturally clear my plate, I truly am getting better at this more often. Better than ever before. The last time I dined out with my parents, for example, I ate half of my roast turkey club sandwich on white toast (hold the mayo) and chips in the restaurant and the other half with chips for lunch at home the next day. I like to divide leftovers into my smallest containers and my beloved cheddar cheese into snack-size bags as well as serving myself food on small plates and snacks in small ramekins. It's all about making the right decision convenient and the wrong decision inconvenient each time I eat or drink. Recently, I started using a measuring cup to regulate portions of pasta. I have thought about pouring wine into a quartino carafe which is about a glass and a a half and then only pouring from that into my glass, especially for dinner parties. I'm also trying to decide what I'm going to eat and drink or what I'm not ahead of time, so that I may possibly stick to it during the meal or event.

3. To live more fearlessly.
I remain a fearful driver, but I do make myself practice driving every once in awhile. I realize that the more I drive around town, the more comfortable I become. When compared to driving and even though I do overthink and worry a lot, I still feel like I've made strides in this area, that my actions have reflected my choices and not my fears. I am open to life. In fact, the last job I applied to wasn't even located in Philadelphia! I am also working on letting my loved ones in, even if they don't understand. This blog has become more personal and I want to publish even more. 

4. To work on my blog everyday.
Fail. Ugh, I have wanted to work on my blog more often for years... Some weeks, I only do an entire Sunday post and publish it same day! I finally realized that I should change my schedule to fit myself though. Read on for what I plan to do this year...

My Goals for 2015 were:

1. To score a new job and move out of my hometown.
That didn't happen. Maybe this year.

2. To have a physical exam.
I didn't make it to the doctor. For health insurance purposes, I did complete a biometric screening during the summer and my numbers were good. 

My Resolutions for 2016 are:

1. To work on my blog more often.
I sincerely resolve to regularly work on my blog in 2016. Working includes writing and editing text, taking and editing pictures, and finding pictures or researching topics. I have a plan of attack this time.

It helps to be specific, so within my resolution, my crystal clear goal is to publish 9 times every month. Even if I take a blogging break, posts should still be scheduled to publish during that time. If I want to post more than nine times, those posts will just have to be published the following month, so that I can finally feel like I'm ahead. I will continue to post about either a simple pleasure or signature item every Sunday, with an exception of substituting another topic as needed. You have fair warning since I may need to do so in catching up this January! Ideally, I plan to schedule a post to go public another day of the week, so that readers can enjoy a post very few days. I am a reliable person and I want my blog to reflect that. It should have greater consistency. Twice a week is not guaranteed though as I will be satisfied with how ever I can squeeze in the four or five remaining posts after the Sunday ones, just achieving nine before month end. This is the fifth post during January, so you may expect four more before midnight going into February 1st, two on the last couple of Sundays this month and two not. That's 108 posts for the year, which is more than I have ever done. I am committed to accomplishing this goal.

In addition, I believe that I have figured out a better schedule to work on the blog. Before, I always wanted to write after dinner and chores. But from 7:30 to 8:30 in the evening, my energy is at its absolute lowest. I often cannot force myself to work on it during this crash. I have even tried drinking another espresso after lunch in order to avoid this crash. This time slot never worked and I admit defeat. I feel inspired, composing blog posts in my head, in the morning. I am usually off from work every Sunday and Monday, so I can blog in the morning and/or even early afternoon on those days. I go into work a half an hour later each Saturday, so I could work on it for 30-40 minutes before my shift. On each one of those days, my minimum is working for a half an hour, but I can work as long as I would like. The toughest part is actually to start. Once I begin, I'm on a roll. If I don't feel like blogging, only 30 minutes before checking it off my list is incentive. That's three days of working on it. If I miss one of those three, I should schedule a makeup during a weekday evening, even writing it in my planner. I would also be more likely to edit or place the finishing touches on an entry in the evening than to start a post. This schedule might fit me better.

It helps to be aware of my personality pitfalls and how to overcome them. Everything had to be perfect for me to start. I needed to be feeling creative. My perfectionistic tendencies make me procrastinate and now I will try to just do it. I also prefer things finished, but I will strive to start a post even if I know that I cannot commit to finishing it. Honestly, I should be working when inspiration strikes!

Over the past several months, I have truly managed to stay on top of so many things. It feels odd that I haven't conquered a major activity of my life yet. Now, it's beyond time to blog better. This is a creative outlet for me and maintains great importance in my life. 

2. To entertain more.
I enjoy entertaining. I also adore the idea of becoming a fabulous hostess. If my income had been greater, then I would have hosted more in the past. But the beauty of a budget is that it enables you to spend dedicated money on what you want and need, cutting other non-essentials. I plan to make dinner parties and other gatherings a priority. If money is tight, then I could orchestrate a potluck meal! At my current job, I will be able to entertain more during the summer than the winter, so the amount I entertain will actually vary based on time of the year.

Recently, I have created an entertaining box. In this nice red shoebox-sized container, I stored food and drink items that I will only serve when I have guests. I have wanted to do this for awhile! Plus, my like-minded friend Kate from Seeking Small brought this idea up to me! Right now, there are three boxes of crackers! Carbs = love, after all! Townhouse Italian Herb Flatbread Crisps are a recently discovery and are simply delicious, but such a flavor punch! I also have the Hint of Salt variety of Triscuits and my favorite Toasteds in Harvest Wheat. Crackers would pair with cheese that I would keep in the fridge. I also have two items for afternoon tea squeezed in. One is a box of Irish Breakfast tea bags and the other is a Bonne Maman jar of strawberry preserves (for scones). No matter how little I have in my checking account, I can now pull out a delicious treat whenever I have company. As Jennifer of The Daily Connoisseur pointed out in her last video and blog post (on batch/freezer cooking), "being chic is being prepared." 

Michelle's entertaining box.
I own two and would like one more, but they are ridiculously expensive.

Its contents.
Crackers, anyone?

Its home in my linen/entertaining closet/pantry.

3. To have fresh flowers in my home more often.
Every week, I limit myself to both a certain dollar amount and item count at both Target and the grocery store due to budget. Often, even a small bouquet of flowers at the grocery store gets cut. I want to make their purchase a priority. I love flowers and their beauty feeds my soul. Maybe I could buy them once a month during the winter and then every other week, following a payday Friday, during the spring, summer and fall. Or when I entertain!

4. To fit into my current clothing size better.
This is another way of saying I would like to lose 5 pounds and keep it off. I am a bit up in weight, still within my normal 15-pound fluctuation though, just a bit towards the higher end. I think I gained about 7 pounds during the second half of summer, then lost a pound at the end of the year and another during the new year. I don't want to go down a dress size. A lot of thought went into those clothing choices and I want to wear what I love. When a garment is tight and my curves are bulging out, I don't feel fabulous. I want to look and feel my absolute best. I want the confidence that comes with that. I love my birthday and hope to accomplish this weight loss goal by April 15th. I certainly want to look my best on my birthday. I will continue my lifelong focus on portion control to accomplish this. I believe in moderation. In savoring something decadent, but it being balanced with healthier choices. Until accomplished, I plan to abstain from a couple of foods however. I just don't love donuts, things like that, and am able to go without them completely until April 15th. Once I hit this weight loss goal, I want to maintain this weight until year end. Of course, if I lose an extra five pounds to get down to 145 lbs. for a bikini this summer (as well as the very bottom of my size typically), then that's even better!

Selfie in January

I feel like my resolutions this year are more fun-loving when compared to those of previous years. They're about a closer connection with others and seeking beauty. Flirtatious even. I am a woman ready to meet whatever adventure 2016 brings with good humor and grace.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Holiday Decor 2015

I enjoy decking the halls for the holidays. I even have a tradition of watching Home Alone on my laptop while I put it all up. Kevin McCallister is wonderful company. This year, I left my decorations up until almost Epiphany, which is January 6th and the day Italians wrap up their Christmas season.

Limited to a low budget, I did initially wish that I had more decor, but after reading a few thoughts from fellow bloggers, I now feel better about my decorations. In a December newsletter, Shannon of The Simply Luxurious Life advocated in this area that less is more. Her two benefits were less time to decorate but more time to enjoy as well as being budget-friendly. In her book, A Chic and Simple Christmas, Fiona of how to be chic explains how you can choose to appreciate the elaborate displays from others, but you may elect to embrace simplicity at home. She highly recommends selecting a festive yet elegant piece you love. I wanted to share how I decorated for Christmas. The theme is mainly red and silver with accents of white and gold. Many items are old. Check out these 20 photos...

My Christmas tree with a couple of my gifts under it: 
a Euro Slide passport wallet in Garnet from Hobo and a trunk of Ghirardelli chocolate products.

One of my Philadelphia ornaments.

A Christmasy corner in my living room.

The tealights inside these gorgeous new candle holders are scent North Pole by Yankee Candle.

My Christmasy coffee table decorations go with my regular sofa pillows.

My chic yet cheap coffee table centerpiece consisted of 
little red ornaments in three glass vases 
as well as little silver jingle bells in one drinking glass and bigger bells in another.

My view from my favorite spot on my sofa.

A little stocking from my college days hung on my coffee table drawer knob.

One of my end tables topped with a holiday teddy bear, a red jar candle (a rose sent by Yankee Candle), and an old candle holder acting as a candy dish of red and green M&Ms.

Ferrero Rocher chocolates on a holiday plate, a box of Rheb's chocolates from my grandfather,
and a white North Pole small tumbler candle by Yankee Candle topped my other end table.

I love this plate. It reads, "eat, drink and be very merry."

An assorted box of Rheb's chocolates.

Most of my Christmas cards on my bulletin board at my desk.

A couple of red berry stems in a vase on a shelf of my bookcase.

Branches of red berries in my beloved white pitcher make a centerpiece for my dining table.
(Read more about this Pinterest project here.)

A little sprig of red berries on my wine holder.

A towel featuring a recipe for cookies for Santa on my oven door handle 
was a gift from a previous year.

A holiday plate and bowl front and center inside my kitchen cabinet.

My beautiful Christmas cards from Hallmark that I sent out for the 2015 holiday.

After Christmas, I bought a few items on clearance. I scored a couple of rolls of coordinating silver and white holiday wrapping paper and a box of white string lights for cheap.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Signature Sunday: Nail Polish: Style Hunter by essie

I love nail polish. I have always given myself pedicures, but then graduated to mixing in the occasional professional one over the past five years. Growing up, I remember that a salon manicure was a special treat before a big event such as a family vacation during the summer, but fell out of the habit, saving money for my next trip to Italy. Then, I got into having my fingernails painted again after one at a girly getaway to New York in October 2013. For awhile now, I set a goal of a manicure and a pedicure once each month ...and have actually accomplished that! Usually these are performed at home, but there are sporadic salon visits as well. My last salon visit was for a manicure in October, I believe. How ever it happens, I feel chic with my nails polished.

I own six bottles of nail polish, five of which are my favorites, ones I could not live without. Thus, I consider each one of these five my signature nail polish. In a mini sub-series throughout 2016, I will publish a post featuring each one. My favorites include a dark pink creme (flat), a dark pink shimmer, a red creme, a red shimmer, and a sheer neutral. Not a pastel kind of gal, I love rich, vibrant color. All of these are either OPI or essie. I appreciate things finished, so I enjoy having already decided on my 'go to' polishes. Of course, I may choose a different color at a salon for a change.

I start this Nail Polish series with my favorite lacquer, a dark pink creme by essie called Style Hunter. This shade is actually my favorite color, a dark pink one may call raspberry. It reminds me of the dark pink azaleas that are due to bloom around my April birthday. This reddish pink is stunningly beautiful. I remember discovering it at my regular salon, near my apartment. Style Hunter debuted in the Spring 2014 collection called Hide & Go Chic, but seems available now, so they must have added this to their permanent collection. Thank goodness! I recently ordered another bottle from Ulta replacing the old one I had bought sometime during 2014, maybe in the summer... Dutch Tulips by OPI seems to be Style Hunter's dupe. I believe it to be the same color, but from memory, I feel like the OPI lacquer is just a bit more dull than the bright essie color. Style Hunter is also a little more red than Watermelon by essie, which is my sixth polish, perfect for summer. I painted my fingernails my favorite color Wednesday evening and will probably remove it tonight.

Style Hunter by essie

Base coat, two coats of color, top coat.

In addition to these colors, I also possess a base coat by OPI and a new quick dry top coat by Seche Vite. I picked it up at Target recently. I love this particular top coat because it enables me to paint my nails after work on a weeknight and not have them all dented while asleep overnight. Therefore, I no longer have to wait until my weekend for a manicure, which makes my once-a-month task much easier to accomplish! Even though it is thick, I also liked its easy application. I highly recommend this product.

Dry Fast Top Coat by Seche Vite

Style Hunter is such a great pop of color during the rather dull winter. I started writing this post at home, but am finishing it seated at my parents' dining room table, watching it snow through the bay window.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: Reading This Love Letter to INFJs

I came across this love letter to INFJs (the people of my personality type) on the facebook page of The INFJ Cafe. The author is a young ENFJ named Marija who clearly adores her INFJ friends. Reading it was such a pleasure. Being a rare type, it's nice to feel like someone understands and appreciates our uniqueness. I found what she said to be true. Well, let's hope that my silliness is so sincere that "it's like watching kittens frolic with unicorn foals." I have a difficult time picking a favorite part! I love it all! This positive piece even motivates me to simply be myself. If you are an INFJ too, click on this link and read it.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Simple Pleasure Sunday: An Hour at My Favorite Coffee Shop and a Book Review: A Chic and Simple Christmas

I took an hour for myself back on Monday, December 21st, during the hectic holiday season. Spending some time at my favorite coffee shop was the perfect little Christmas gift to myself. Such a simple pleasure of mine, there are few things I wanted to do more. Not owning a car and rarely asking to borrow a family vehicle, I haven't managed to get to this beloved place of mine two towns away for three months, since late September. My mom had some Christmas shopping to do for my sister down the road and she graciously agreed to both drop me off and pick me up on the way. While there, I savored a large cappuccino served in a cup and saucer and a chocolate croissant. Both were delicious. With this purchase, my punch card is now full and I am due a free beverage on my next visit.

I also indulged in some reading. Not one but two books on my Kindle captivated me. One was The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino. This selection is good, but since it's a whole book on a single street, as you can imagine, it's rather dense reading. I am reading it slowly.

I read most of the short eBook A Chic and Simple Christmas: Celebrate the holiday season with ease and grace by fellow blogger Fiona Ferris of how to be chic. (Make sure that you use the updated version. Follow Fiona's easy instructions to enable this correction from this post.) It was a nice holiday-themed read for my cafĂ© time during late December. 

Honestly, I didn't put any of her wonderful ideas into practice this year. I simply read it a bit too late. I expected this fellow lover of lists to instruct each reader to write a few lists and I was right. As I read this guide just several days before December 25th, I felt that if I composed even one more 'to do' list, I was afraid my head would explode! I suppose I could use some help...

I do adore her ideas and will likely incorporate them into my Christmas 2016 because I too believe that "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" (which is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci) and I also want to enjoy this often hectic holiday more. Even though she encourages the reader to create the holiday of his or her dreams, she, herself, seeks simplicity and offers many tips for a simple December and January. After analyzing those aforementioned lists, she suggests that the reader determine a fun theme. As my college friends can attest with surprise birthday parties for one another, I love and can totally run away with a theme! I appreciate this reminder to take a step back from all the crazy details and see the big picture. In addition, her words on a simple Christmas made me feel a lot better about my holiday decor which was minimal due to a strict budget. As you know, I planned on catching up on blogging during the last stretch of the holiday season, but wished I had read Fiona's sage advice and didn't pile on more commitments during the frenzied week and a half before Christmas. Even though I didn't unsubscribe from all marketing emails by retailers, I did follow Fiona's simplifying tip with about 15 stores and companies so far. She really makes sense regarding gift-giving and its stress. Also, I laughed when Fiona qualifies a bit of bad taste as very French chic. One of my favorite tips was her "mental walk-through" prior to an event, particularly what you will or will not eat and drink. If I make firm decisions ahead of time, I just might not throw all my self-discipline out the window as I normally do during the family dinner on Christmas Day. Genius! Like Fiona, I also adore a fresh start in January, which she dedicates an entire chapter to in this thorough holiday season guide. I don't even think I gave too much away in this long review because this book is bursting with tips. Go over to amazon and purchase this cheap eBook in order to prepare for the next holiday season as well.

I think that Fiona would have approved of this 'me time' at my favorite coffee shop, specifically me sipping my regular cappuccino instead of some peppermint latte since she wrote, "Working out how you'd love to experience the holiday season is all about creating little Christmas markers that anchor you into the festive feeling." It doesn't have to be Christmasy, it just has to make you happy. All things Italian make me happy.

The day that this post publishes, I will be in Delaware celebrating Christmas with my dad's side of the family. If you are still celebrating too, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!