Thanksgiving Reflections

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
   Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
   Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!   That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

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Long have I known a glory in it all,
         But never knew I this;   
         Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
Thanksgiving is the culmination of autumn for me, and on this day of gratitude, I am so thankful for beauty in this world. Nature’s seasons reflect the human experience in profound ways, and there is so much to be discovered in moments of quiet and stillness when we can let our hearts relax and our thoughts, like autumn leaves, fall gently and quietly into place.
I am learning to look for beauty everywhere; not just in obvious joy and pleasure, but in the obscurity of waiting, sorrow, and hope. To put it simply, I am finally learning to appreciate, and even marvel at, the mere ordinariness of life.  Amidst the chatter of family and beneath the savory scents infusing the surrounding air, I plan to take a moment to be still and wonder at the beauty of the everyday things I so often take for granted.
Here’s wishing that your Thanksgiving is full of delight, beauty, and joy in the obvious and in the ordinary…  xo
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Gift Guide for The Book Lover part II

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1. Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day from Persephone Books. $14.

I enjoyed this story of a prim and proper British governess in her midlife who suddenly finds herself in the middle of excitement, intrigue, and even romance in 1930’s London.

2. Rabbit Hole necklace from Out Of Print. $30.

This whimsical necklace is for anyone who has fond memories of reading childhood classics and being swept away into imaginary worlds.

3. Lit Lovers case for iPhone from Jessa Mae Photo (Etsy). $28.

So one can showcase their love of books!

4. Women’s Long Sleeve tee from Out Of Print. $42.

Even if you haven’t read it, you can look like you have.

5. Penguin vintage classics luggage tags from Penguin. $9.95 each.

As I wheeled my bag around NYC last year, trying to get to where I needed to be and finding myself hopelessly turned around and confused, my Lost Girl luggage tag seemed especially appropriate, and even menacing at the time. Now I embrace the experience of being lost, and my luggage tag seems to remind me on every trip that travel is about adventure and not just your destination. These luggage tags will surely bring a smile to the face of the traveler/reader in your life.

6. Literary Book Lover coffee mug from Dream and Craft (Etsy).

My favorite coffee cups are the ones with literary references or titles on them.

7.Library Card canvas book tote from Amazon.com. $21.99

For the librarian and would-be librarians in your life.

There are so many wonderful gift ideas out there! This is meant to be a guide only, to help inspire you to gift the people in your life with the things that they enjoy. A gift card is great, but something with meaning and connections to the receiver will never be amiss. I encourage you to keep your eyes open in this busy shopping season, look for the whimsical and unexpected, and most of all, shop for the person you’re gifting. Know their interests and passions. Giving isn’t just about doing what is expected, it is about relationships and bringing pleasure to others.

Until next time, my friends… xo

Gift Guide for The Book Lover

As a book lover I am often coming across items that I think would make wonderful gifts for fellow bibliophiles. For this holiday season, I decided to put together a collage of such gifts that I think would be perfect for any person who loves books as much as I do. For all the non-book lovers out there, I hope that this list will inspire you if perhaps you know someone who enjoys reading and finds pleasure in gifts related to it.

It was so much fun to put this together, and I can’t wait to purchase some of these items for the book lovers in my life! (and if any family members or friends are reading this, do know that this collection is really just my ultimate wish list…) 

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1. Library Stamp long-sleeve tee for women from Out Of Print Clothing. $42

2. So Many Books, So Little Time pendant from The Pendant Emporium (Etsy). $9.25

3. Bibliophile print from Quotable Printables (Etsy). $5.00

4. King’s Cross Station, Vintage London Map Bookmark from Made With Maps (Etsy). $6.42

5. Book Map from Dorothy. $156

6. Penguin Classics mug from Penguin. $9.95

7. Scout and Boo necklace from Out of Print. $30

8. Little Women by Rifle Paper Co. from Anthropologie. $16

There are so many wonderful gift ideas that I was unable to narrow them down to one board, so I will be sharing more next week. Until then my friends… xo

Rome: Eat, Sleep, See

Rome was not quite the budget challenge that London and Paris were. Our hotel was superb, food options were plentiful, and very little was spent on transit since we walked almost everywhere, thanks to the ancient city’s layout. Below are the places I most enjoyed during my visit. Of course these are the obvious choices, but I did figure out how to avoid crowds and make the most of visiting these sites. If going during the summer, it is best to get out early to avoid the heat (this was hard for me, as vacation to me is sleeping in and not being on a time schedule). The good news is that you can return to your hotel to relax and nap during the intensely hot hours of afternoon, then hit the streets for the evening festivities.

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Tiber river at sunrise.

 

If you’re planning on visiting Rome in the near future, read on. If you have already visited, I would love to know your favorites for my future return visit!

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Hotel: My friend and I stayed at the Navona Colors Hotel (it was named Excel Navona at the time), near Piazza Navona. Our room was absolutely huge (by European standards), with an elegant, modern simplicity that was a refreshing contrast to the ruins one encounters all over Rome. The hotel staff was exceptionally polite, helpful in everything from directions to booking airport transportation to even just answering (with much patience and kindness) the many questions my friend and I put to them over the course of our stay. The breakfast (included in the hotel price) was as tasty as it was beautiful, but I must confess that my hands-down, absolutely favorite aspect of my stay was the huge Nespresso machine in the dining area. Steaming, frothy espresso drinks any time I wanted one. Even better? The Nespresso machine in our room. (And any coffee aficionado knows that Keurig cannot hold a candle to Nespresso. Nope. Nowhere even close). Add in a/c (harder to find in Europe than you’d think), free wifi, robes, lots of area to store our stuff, and you have a nearly perfect, budget-friendly hotel ideally situated near Rome’s main attractions.

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Eating: Since breakfast was provided at our hotel, we didn’t try any breakfast places. We did rely on take-out sandwiches, gelato, and cafes for afternoon snacking. At night we visited restaurants around Piazza Navona since it was near our hotel. I didn’t feel that I received great food here, and on a return visit will do more research to find quality, budget-friendly restaurants. If people-watching and bustling crowds is your thing, then you will probably be happy staying in the touristy areas for eating. The one restaurant that I truly enjoyed was a lovely pizza place near the Tiber. We met up with a local girl my friend had met in NYC who took us there, but sadly I can’t remember its name. I know that it was next to a cute cooking store, and in a less-busy area. The food was fresh and delicious, delivered in huge portions. For a budget traveler this is very important, so I suggest trying to find similar, out-of-the-way eateries during your visit. They will probably be more authentic and tastier than what is offered in the busier, touristy areas anyway.

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The Rome Pass: I felt that I wasted my money on this pass. I purchased it before I realized that its incentives of free transportation wouldn’t really benefit me as I walked everywhere; additionally, the museum discounts didn’t apply as most of the museums I wanted to visit were not covered by the pass. Live and learn, I say. I did get into the Coliseum for free, as well as scoring a last-minute entry into the Borghese Gallery. Other than that, my pass went largely unused.

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IMG_0476Coliseum: If the Rome Pass did nothing else, it allowed us to skip the hours-long line and get in with a minimum wait. If you can’t get up super early to be there when it opens, it may be worth your money to buy the pass in order to bypass the wait. While one can easily self-guide inside the Coliseum, if I return I will purchase a tour as I noticed that tour groups were allowed access to areas closed off for most visitors.

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St. Peter’s Square at sunrise.
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The view from the cupola.

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Vatican: My friend and I were in line to enter the Vatican at sunrise, and this was a decision far wiser than we realized (we were mostly trying to escape the heat). Not only was St. Peter’s Square stunning beneath the morning sun, but we didn’t have to wait for entry and we were able to roam the visitor areas and climb the Vatican cupola without the hordes of people who had shown up by the time we left.

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La Catacomba Di San Callisto: Visiting the catacombs is perfect on a hot summer day, as the vaults beneath Rome are dark and very cold. Our guide was very informative and friendly as she guided our group through the labyrinthine cemetery. It was a sobering look at the lives of Romans thousands of years ago, and glimpsing their graves, much like seeing the ruins around Rome, was yet another emphasis on life’s brevity.

After the tour, I enjoyed walking around the Mediterranean landscape surrounding the catacomb entrance. The only hiccup in our day was an excruciatingly long wait for a bus back into Rome. Make sure you plan in time waiting on public transportation in Rome, as it is nowhere near efficiency.

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Borghese Gallery: Not to be missed are collections of Caravaggio, Raffaello, and Bernini housed in a former villa, surrounded by a park lush with verdure, ponds, and sweetly cool walks beneath large trees. Book ahead for a guaranteed entrance, and book as far ahead as possible if you will be there during peak travel season. Everyone goes here, and after a visit, you’ll see why.

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Pantheon: Free (one of the few things that are in Rome!), but crowded. You can see the tombs of Raphael, Vittiorio Emmanuel II, and Umberto I. I was awed by the stunning Roman architecture and spent much time walking around slowly, taking it in.

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Perhaps my favorite activity was wandering around the streets, stopping to sit in a cafe for an afternoon espresso or hanging out in the gelato shops. And of course, the nights in Rome. Don’t miss seeing the fountains and bustling Piazzas at night.

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Until next time… Happy Weekend! xo.

Autumn

The best things about fall, its pleasures that I eagerly anticipate every year include so many things, but if I had to narrow any down, I have to say that I especially love the availability of pumpkins (to eat or to decorate with), wearing scarves and boots (oh, I do love my boots), soft light falling through gloriously colorful trees, and chilly beginnings and endings wrapped around shorter days.

As I continue to participate in wardrobe challenges in an effort to make better use of my clothing (it really takes creativity to style the same thing differently for multiple days, or to reach for the blouse that I never wear because I never can figure out what to wear it with), you can glimpse a few of my favorite autumnal things.

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Remember that Gap skirt I bought I recently? I’ve been getting a lot of use from it! I love pairing it with my Banana Republic boots. Sweater is Zara. Scarf is Marc Jacobs for Target, from the Neiman Marcus collection a couple of years ago.

 

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I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that capes are so popular, as I have been wearing them for the past couple of years anyway! As proof, this one is from Target a few years ago. The skirt is H&M, the t-shirt is Anthropologie, and the boots are from Ross. The skirt is a couple of years old, but the t-shirt and boots are more recent purchases.

 

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I bought this sweater on super sale from Gap last year, and it is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Its cozy style is perfect for errands. The jeans are also Gap. The coffee mug is from Brookline Booksmith.

 

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Shirt and jeans are Gap. Scarf is Target. Booties are Old Navy. All outfit pieces were purchased on clearance.

 

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Top is Zara (less than $15, purchased this summer), here’s the Gap skirt again, paired this time with my boots from Ross.