Monday, September 3, 2012

I am a TJ Maxx-anista!

For my 21st birthday my mom suggested that before heading over to Lenox Mall that we check out the TJ Maxx in the area.  I was on the hunt for something big, possibly a staple handbag or a cool pair of winter boots (Yes I know it's September but I like to think ahead).  Upon reaching the purse section, I started stacking multiple leather hobo bags in this season's ox-blood and navy hues.  I was overwhelmed with the amount of designer steals I encountered, amongst them were Michael Kors metallic styles and Badgley Mischika crisp shoulder bags.  However, during my stay in Firenze I noticed a new brand of bags emerging that reminded me somewhat of the ever-popular Longchamp brand called JPK Paris.  These bags generally retail at anywhere from  $165 and up and are quickly taking over the European market, so I was over-joyed when I spotted a navy bucket bag for only $80!

So the moral of the story is that not only should you always try to shop at TJ Maxx to find the best deals, you should try to target the locations in the wealthier neighborhoods.  The selection is noticeably better because they cater to upper class consumers with designer taste.

I can't wait for fall so I can wear all my new presents!  Here are some of the things I found:
Elizabeth and James (The Olsen Twin's Line) Wedges
Original price: $275
Reduced price:$47
Savings: $228!!!!


Michael Kors trench coat
I can't wait to wear this with jeans and boots!
Original price: $120
Reduced price:$60
Savings: $60

Adorable Blazer
Possible interviewing material?
Original price: $80
Reduced price: $60
Savings: $20

JPK Paris bucket bag
The next Longchamp!
Original price: $145
Reduced price: $80
Savings: $65

The inside of my JPK bag!  I'm obsessed with this interior paisley print!

Dolce Vita grey oxfords
I'm super excited to wear these because they're actually really comfortable and are usually sold at department stores for WAY more than my price.
Original price: $70
Reduced price: $40
Savings: $30

Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Impressions-C. Wonder at Lenox

Hey guys!
Today I ventured over to Lenox mall for the day with my mom to do some 21st bday shopping!  We had lunch at a little cafe and drooled over everything at Anthropologie, then suddenly came across a huge sign advertising a brand new store called "C.Wonder."
I loved this printed pant! Great colors too ;)
I hunted down the store and found that it was bright and inviting, but that it also looked similar to J. Crew and Madewell.  As soon as we walked in the nice security guard informed us that, fun fact, the store is actually owned by Tory Burch's ex-husband.  After he mentioned this I could see a huge similarity in the merchandise in comparison to Burch's preppy and up-and-coming brand

SO Tory
 The patterns he used were slightly different to ones I've seen in Tory's products and he even had similar sandals to the infamous logo-ed Tory Burch summer sandals.

The collar detail is very fresh
There were mostly oxford shirts with adorable collars that had pretty fabrics so all the preppiest girls out there can properly pop their collars in style.  He did, HOWEVER, set himself apart by offering lower prices and even an in-store monogramming station.  He also chose to sell not just clothing, but helmets, kitchen accessories, and dog bowls in trendy, bright hues.   Here are some pictures I took of the new store so go check it out!


Totally getting this


They had REAL gumballs...fo free

  

My first "good" Goodwill shopping excursion


As every fashion-minded college girl has experienced lately, the economy is not only taking a toll on our wallets but our shopping capabilities as well.  At times I have been utterly discouraged trying to keep up with fashion trends due to my lack of available clothing funds.  I have fortunately had a fashion spending epiphany since returning from the center of the fashion universe, Europe, where I spent a glorious semester in Florence, Italy.  The Italian women absolutely nail the effortlessly chic look, which made me wonder how they manage to maintain this on a daily basis with tight budgets.  Surely not every woman in Italy was growing money on trees, so what was their secret?  It dawned on me after my second month in Firenze that the key to their style genius was their belief in investing in classic staples.  Once they mastered the basics that could be re-worn in a variety of ways, then they spent less on trendier items that inevitably disappeared after only a few seasons in order to stay on top of must-have looks.
            To achieve a complete and ever-current wardrobe, one does not have to spend endless amounts of cash on brand new clothes every few months to stay on trend.  After coming to terms with this idea,  I decided to see for myself if “thrifting” really held the answer to my monetary constraints.  I selected the Goodwill by Perimeter Mall as my subject and headed over with low expectations as to what I would find.  To my great surprise, I sighed in relief when I realized how neatly organized and “Roy G.Biv”ed  the racks were laid out.  My first stop was the dress section where I selected a few denim dresses, a funky blue tulle overcoat, and a black Banana Republic knee-length dress (Goldmine!).  The jean dresses unfortunately made me look like a 6-year old ready to play hopscotch, and the Indian-influenced jacket was a tad much for wearing around campus.  Lo and behold, the winner was the BR dress, which was streamlined, classic, and probably retails for around $100.  This was my first treasure I found amongst the sea of wacky used clothes. 
            Next I ventured over to the jeans section, stopping along the way to pick up a black-and-white peplum top.  As I scoured the aisles for a pair of suitable “mom jeans” to cut into high-waisted hot pants, I came across a pair of Citizens of Humanity designer jeans in my size…for a whopping $6!  A satisfied grin took over my face as I pulled the jeans on in the dressing room and realized that their worn-in appeal was perfect.  They fit like a glove and normally sell for anywhere from $130-200 a pair!  This was steal number three for me.  The peplum top was flattering and for $5, why not?  After discovering the ideal subject for my jean shorts project, my Goodwill shopping excursion came to a blissful end.
            My total came out to a miniscule $25 and I drove home with 4 items that would’ve cost me close to $400 if purchased at full price.  Lesson to be learned folks, don’t let the fear of disorganization or laziness hold you back from thifting.  You could miss out on super-savings that will leave you more money to spend on other designer staples, like that Michael Kor’s snakeskin clutch that you’ve been eyeing for months.  I promise you won’t regret it, you just need a little fashion faith and a creative approach to your style to save big and look flawless.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Last post of the semester!

There are only three measly days left in Firenze and I am starting to get so emotional!  I can't decide which feelings are the most overpowering....I'm so many things at once!  A week ago I was so excited to go home and aching to enjoy all things american, but now I'm having second thoughts.  Sometimes I blow the things I'm looking forward to out of proportion and make them seem more awesome in my head than they are in reality, like Chik-fil-A.  Scratch that, chik-fil-a is amazing and I can't wait to get my hands on a chicken biscuit...my first morning in roswell WOULD be a sunday!  I will survive until monday though because my dad signed us up for a sweet mother's day buffet at good ole hsb club so I'll be able to have american breakfast once again!  Europe has some great food, but they definitely don't care much for breakfast foods to my dismay.
I think I 'm ready to be home, or at least my body is telling me to take a break because I am constantly exhausted here!  Amy has taught me the beauty of "seizing the day" and waking up early in the am, something I don't generally take advantage of back home.  With my internship this summer I'll be getting my arse up with my dad during the week so hopefully he can make me some delicious coffee with our new coffee-maker!    I just want to soak up these last few days and be out in the city as much as possible but stupid finals are getting in the way of my plans.  Fortunately they're not nearly as intense as UGA finals hehe.  Tomorrow night we're all going to a restaurant called Aqua al Due that has a delectable steak sampler of blueberry and balsamic steak that is out of this world, so I'm looking forward to that very much.  Before dinner I have my last fashion illustration class and sewing class (we're learning how to sew in zippers for our final?) and I am so sad to see all the friends I have made for the last time!  It's been such a nice change to actually get to know the people in my classes because at UGA I always sit with the people I know and it's difficult to meet people in 300 person lecture halls.  Everyone is from schools across the U.S. and is a product of where they come from, which definitely made me realize how the south is an entirely different place in itself from the rest of the states.  Apparently it is insane that people are laying out at the pool in May?  The weather here has been pretty unfortunate for most of the semester with only a handful of warm, sunny days.  Who knew europe was so dang cold?!  I definitely didn't come prepared, that's for sure.  Three days ago I was doing my homework while wearing my fur vest from Hungary to stay warm!
Nonetheless, I am so stoked to be back at home for the summer!  I keep daydreaming about seeing my parents for the first time in four months at the airport and it brings tears to my eyes!  I'm also counting down the seconds until I get to see my little rascal of a cockapoo Riley and his sidekick Cody the chihauhau.  They're the number one boys in my life :)
It is weird looking into my little closet with five hangers (what a joke right?) and seeing it almost empty.  My time here has flown by and it seems like a week ago I was walking by the duomo for the first time in sheer amazement.  Now I walk by it and don't even think twice!  Florence has been the PERFECT host city because it is the perfect size, has amazing food and shopping, and is incredibly picturesque.  I couldn't have asked for a better study abroad experience, especially because of the people I met.  My roommates have been there for me through my debit card fiasco, slapping creepy italian men at fullup, staying up until 6am at naima, and getting sketchy chinese food at the place on the corner.  These are only a few of the crazy experiences we have shared together and I wouldn't change a thing about it.  Studying abroad isn't always as glamorous as it may seem, but these guys definitely made it as amazing and fun as humanly possible.  I can't begin to grasp the idea that we may not see each other again for a long time, but I am happy to have shared this incredible experience with you guys.  You have made me a better person!  Let's make these last few days count!
Arrivederchi ciao ciao!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mondays....yay?

After getting back from Rome yesterday around 6:30 I was surprisingly not as exhausted as I thought!  My lovely roommates whipped up a healthy salad with chicken and balsamic/olive oil dressing for dinner, a nice break from all the carbs I consumed this weekend!  This morning I was woken up at a mere 8a.m. by our neighbors downstairs that decided to blast "Turn me on" as loud as humanly possible.  Not to mention that there is already enough noise with the roof construction and jack hammer?  Who knows why API put a group of girls in this apartment, I mean don't get me wrong its a cute place, but the inhabitants in this area concern me.   The other day after a night on the town we headed back to our apartment and as we approached the door a man tried to follow us into our building and was banging on the door yelling at us to open up!?! Scary stuff I know.
                  Anyways, after tossing and turning for a while I decided to start my day and go for a jog by the river.  It was such a beautiful day today, just another reminder of how blessed I am to be in Firenze!  On my way back I stopped at the Conad grocery store to pick up the week's necessities: some fresh baguette, tomatoes, wine, ham and cheese, some yummy apples, and my absolute favorite blackberry jam that I will have withdrawals from when I go home.  The grocery stores here are actually very stressful because of how fast-paced the paying process is and the fact that you have to bag your own groceries.  They are, however, environmentally friendly in that most Italians bring their own bags for their food versus using the plastic ones.  Of course I always forget to bring my bag and sometimes I feel the cashiers glaring at me as if I'm destroying the planet or something.  Come to America honey where one person uses twenty plastic bags and see how that feels!  On my way back I passed through a popular piazza with lots of street vendors where one guy hollered at me "Can I come over for dinner??!?" in reference to my grocery bags I'm assuming.  The men here have no shame in yelling at you weird/creepy things and making disgusting kissy noises every time a girl walks by.  It is "the desperate girl's haven" Amy refers to Florence as far as the dating scene.  Next I came back and got dressed for the day and made myself some caprese salad for lunch.  During this time I realized that I actually needed to do a country report on France that is due tomorrow, so I completed about half of that before Julia convinced me to go hunt down some cilantro with her.  Unbeknownst to us, Mexican food is absolutely impossible to cook here because they don't have the following key ingredients: sour cream, black beans, and cilantro.  NOWHERE TO BE FOUND!  We went into about five different stores before giving up the search and settling for some gelato at GROM, which is absolutely amazing.  I got my typical chocolate and caffe combo and thoroughly enjoyed every bite of it.  Then we headed back so I could get back to work (unfortunately) on my homework.  Overall, it was a great and pretty relaxing day for me and it is really starting to feel like this is my home.
                 I also wanted to talk a little bit about the fashion here in Italia.  It is mind-blowing how different Florence is versus UGA in terms of fashion choices.  Prior to coming here, I thought I was a pretty well-dressed person with a diverse array of looks.  No way hose.  The amount of crazyily interesting and unique combinations I have seen here has really opened my eyes to the endless possibilites of outfits.  To my surprise I have to say that the most fashionable women I have seen are the Asian tourists.  Although some of their choices are way too out-there for me personally, I truly respect the risks they take.  The absolutely are obsessed with these puffy downcoats!  Thankfully its getting warmer every day and coats aren't really necessary anymore but I wish I had known before I arrived how many cool coats they have here!  On the other hand, the Italians have much more of an effortless chic to them that the Americans here will never be able to master.  Even walking around with wet hair is a sign that you're American because an Italian woman would NEVER do that.  Black is the most popular color, another reason why we stand out because we love patterns and neon and bright colors.  The women often don sleek knee-length coats with varying buttons, tights, and some heels/heeled boots.  How in the world they manage not to face-plant on the cobble-stone streets is beyond me...My feet are STILL recovering from the weekends walking marathon.  They typically wear minimal make-up and go for a much more simplistic look.  Lucky for them, most of them have straight hair that is easily manageable, not me of course I have a head of messy curls to style.  It seems to me that they value quality versus quantity, which is the complete opposite in the U.S. where forever21 specializes in making fashionable clothes as a great price but only lasts two washes before the shape is completely deformed or shrunken.  I have never seen so many louis vuitton purses in my life.....the other day a girl about my age was carrying a brand new snakeskin hobo gucci bag, freshly purchsed outside of the store.  Soooo casual?  This would not happen in a million years where I'm from because high fashion is considered to be Tory Burch.  Going back to what I mentioned earlier, they invest in staple pieces and wear them until the end of their lives.  This might be a better concept for me to adopt because then I could fit all of my stuff in my suitcase to go home instead of sending a big box home beforehand.  Shopping addiction has flared up, help!!! I need a little more high fashion in my life and a little less disposable in my closet.
                 Lastly, I was so sad I couldn't watch the Oscar's last night!  I was able to check out the best/worst dressed of the evening on people.com though, and I have to say that my favorite was Angelina.  She is so confident and is the definition of a strong woman, she never seems to go wrong these days!  I'm also recently intrigued by Rooney Mara, who looked very chic and edgy so I'll have to keep an eye on her in the future.  My favorite appearance was definitely Natalie Portman not only because she is one of my role models, but becuase she and her husband are such a cute couple!  I mean, how many women can graduate from Harvard, be an actress,pull off playing a professional ballerina, and be a momma?!  Only Natalie.  Well it's getting late here in Florence so I'm off to bed so I can get up to head to the studio to get some sewing done.  Ciao tutti! xoxo
How adorable are they?
Vamped up always

She's mysterious don't you think?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Roma!

I just got back from the amazing city of Rome and can confidently say that I haven't been this tired in a longgg time!  I will be getting to bed VERY early tonight and hopefully getting a solid 12 hours in so I can get back to a normal schedule.  Who knew travelling was this exhausting?! Anyways, I absolutely loved Rome!  The architecture and the ruins were mind-blowing and I think that everyone needs to see them once in their life.  After arriving friday morning we got a a quick walking tour to get our footing, even though the city is so big I still couldn't get around on my own without getting lost on day three!  We saw some of the famous sights like the Trevi Fountain, the spanish steps, and a few other things with the group.
Spanish steps
Trevi Fountain wishes

In piazza Navona with the roomies
The Pantheon
 We also picked up a nom nom little pizza (mine was mushrooms and tomato) that was really yummy!  It was weird to me that just casually strolling around you will run into world famous monuments like its no big deal.  I tried to appreciate every moment of it and kept thinking about how dang old all these places are and it is truly unbelievable.  After walking around for a while we stopped at a cute outdoor cafe to grab a glass of wine and some bruschetta.
In Piazza Navona
    It was kind of a rip off because we chose a place right in the piazza navona, a very popular/touristy square.  Nonetheless the weather was beautiful and we enjoyed giving our feet a break.  I've also come to realize that no matter what friggin shoes I wear my feet will be killing me by the end of the day.  I just tell myself to suck it up and that I'm in Rome and shouldn't be complaining and usually it works?  Amy and I bought some adorable white sneakers at a shop near the Trevi  fountain that I wore today, and they were slightly more comfortable than my leather boots.  To my dismay I realized that my brand new leather boots are a wee bit too snug and that I have to "break them in."  Rome was definitely not the best place to try and do that because they were throbbing by dinnertime!  After wine we strolled around and made a reservation at a FANTASTIC restaurant called Antiqua Trattoria that was recommended by API.  When I imagined what Italy would be like before I actually came here, this is exactly what I had in mind.  We sat outside and for 20 euro got 2 bottles of wine, a meatball and bean dish, and steak!  I have to say that is pretty good deal!  The steak wasn't as good as Dad's big green egg creations, however.
Meatballs and beans at Antiqua Taverna
 The whole time I was in Rome I kept wanting to turn to my side and see my family standing there, marveling at all this amazingness with me.  I really realized how lucky I am to have the opportunity to travel the world this weekend because I think I have already noticed changes in myself.  There is so much out there to see that I never even realized was there! Being here has opened my eyes so much to all the opportunities and possibilities that all seem so much more reachable now that I'm living in it.  Sometimes at home I tend to get sucked into my uga bubble and think that the world revolves around date nights and socials, but now I understand how different life COULD be after college etc!
Back to my weekend recap.  So after our delicious dinner we headed over to a place called "Drunken Ship," lovely eh?  After hanging out for a while Sydney and I called it a night around midnight when the realness of my exhaustion finally settled in.  On saturday we got up at 8:30 am (I was not a happy camper because anyone that knows me knows how much sleep I require...) to make it to breakfast and then bus over to see some more Roman sites.  First, we visited castel, not castle, St. Angelo where the popes lived!  There were some beautiful views at the top and we got to see the pope's bedroom which was very grand and neat to see.
Castel St. Angelo

View from the Castel
  Next we headed over to Vatican City, which was definitely my favorite part of Rome!  Pictures simply do not do the Basilica justice.  The place was a monstrosity and I still don't understand how they managed to construct something so magnificent with their level of technology.  Modern buildings do not even compare to the grandiosity  of the pillars and paintings that decorated the walls.  We spent a long time marveling at at the basilica and then headed over to the Vatican museum.  I was a little confused upon getting there because I stupidly thought that the Vatican was a church, when it is actually an old palace that is now turned into a museum.  On display are thousands of Roman relics, sculptures, tapestries, and paintings that I had no idea what their significance was because we had no tour guide, but nonetheless it was unreal to be in the presence of all the famous artwork.  We finally made it to the Sistine Chapel, which was much smaller than I expected and we were unfortunately not allowed to take pictures because the flash ruins the paint colors.  Of course there are always the girls in my group that think they can beat the system and do it anyway.  Little did they know there are guards in every room that will run over and yell at you in Italian while simultaneously embarrassing the s*^& out of you in front of the entire museum.  Lesson #1, don't try to take pictures of Michelangelo's stuff.  It was fun to picture him up on a scaffold at the top of the wall with his paintbrush working away.  At the same time it is crazy to think that he can work on a small section but be able to connect it all and see the bigger picture to create one massive art.  Very cool.
After finishing up in the chapel Kelsey and I wandered into a courtyard, sat on a bench, and basked in the sun to wait for the others to finish the museum.  We all walked back towards the hotel to shower and get ready for our next delicious Roman meal.  This time we made a reservation at a place called Maccheroni that was to die for, but for some reason I didn't have a big appetite so I mostly just sampled everything.  We ordered two traditional pastas to split amongst the three of us (Amy, Julia, and I), Pasta cacio e pepe that was phenomenal, and another one with black truffle sauce.  Every time I try to be adventurous with my food choices it backfires, so let's just say I only had a few bites of that one....After a leisurely dinner with my roommates, we went for a stroll down the street with all of the ruins before heading to a pub called Scholars.  It was spectacular to see the sites all lit up in different colors, it felt like I was the luckiest girl in the world!  The pub was a ball, and we all ended up meeting some great characters.  I met a guy named Sal from Argentina...random?  and Julia and Kelsey chatted with two Roman boys who kindly drive us over in their sweet benz to the next bar called Anima.  Everyone here has super fancy cars, and let's just say his car made my little toyota camry look pretty sketchy in comparison. This was a smaller bar, but still had a cool crowd and we dragged ourselves home at the wee hour of 3:30 am.
Getting up this morning was even more of a struggle than on saturday because of the buildup of lack of sleep, dehydration, and exhaustion in general.  We got breakfast and then attempted to go to a market a few bus stops away, but we were sadly dissapointed at the lack of vintage things we expected to find.  It was mostly tacky costume jewelry and cheap clothes on tables with hectic Italians shoving at each other to get their treasures.  So we headed back to the hotel to do a bus tour that lasted about 45 minutes, which showed us more of the city and sites.  Then we hopped off the bus to do the famous Colosseum tour, which was insanely cool to see and picture the gladiators fighting with the people in the stands.  We snapped some pictures and then broke for lunch where we found a cute little place that had DELICIOUS Margherita pizza!  Sadly this is where our trip to Rome came to a close as we headed back to the buses Florence bound.  Overall I enjoyed Rome immensely and highly recommend that everyone take a visit there.  I'm glad I chose to study in Firenze, however, because the city is much more intimate and way less intimidating than a huge city like Rome.  Next weekend is our trip with API to Venice, so I need to rest up to be ready for our next Italian adventure.  Arrivederchi tutti! xoxo
St. Peter's Basilica

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oh Bollucks, back to school?

Whewww I am absolutely exhausted after this weekend!  Not that I'm complaining or anything because it was so worth it.  Before leaving for London on thursday we went to a ballet at a theatre near the ponte vecchio to see Swan Lake.  It was so interesting to see the Italian interpretation of the ballet, they definitely added their own little flair to it.  It kept making me think back to the movie The Black Swan and how intensive the training is for these things, its really insane!  Overall it was a great cultural experience and also something I've never done before so that was really great.
Friday morning at the crack of dawn (literally 3:15am) Julia, Kelsey, and I trekked to the train station to take a train from Florence to the Pisa airport to make our 6:30 am flight to Stansted, England.  Everything went smoothly expect for the takeoff that scared the bejeezes out of me with how violently the plane shook as we took off!  Nonetheless we made it their with out crashing and got on our bus to Liverpool station.  Once we got off we headed to our hostel, called Hostel Generator to check-in.  It was a really young and lively place with a bar and a cafeteria inside that served a pretty cheap breakfast buffet that we definitely took advantage of that for the weekend.  Next we went to hunt down some chow because we hadn't eaten anything and it was 12pm=famished.  We came across a cute little cafe were I got some eggs benedict and a mocha chocolate cafe that really hit the spot.  I splurged and got a little chocolate cupcake too because they just looked so decadent (if you can't tell already I have an obsession with anything chocolate?) Then we bought our tube passes and took the train to the tower of london.  It was well worth the pounds because we had a fabulous tour guide who cracked me up and tried to keep our minds off the cold.  It was just as cold in London as it was in Florence but I was determined not to allow the weather to ruin my london experience.  My favorite part of the tour was the seeing chapel that is over 900 years old where all of King Henry VII's wives were buried, including Anne Boleyn.  I was looking really looking to this part because I've read so many books about the Tudors and also watched the entire Tudors series on HBO, I'm pretty much obsessed with their era.
After getting my palace fix we stopped at the starbucks across the street to refuel and then bused to oxford street where all the amazing shopping is located.  Let me tell you, I have never been so excited about clothes in my entire life....TOPSHOP IS AMAZING.  It is a fashionista's dream place.  There was an entire floor dedicated to accessories, amazingly cute accessories.  To my despair everything was about twenty pounds too expensive and the conversion rate for us is terrible at the moment (1.56 pounds=1 dollar) so I kept my wallet in my bag.  It was a mental struggle not to buy something but I was proud of myself after leaving for staying strong.  We popped into a few other big stores and then met up with Kelsey's friend Ben who took us to Covent Gardens.  This is a very posh area where celebrities are often known to wander around, and I could see why.  There were lots of boutiques and cute little stores, very exclusive.  Ben took us to a hidden mexican restaurant where I got my first mexican meal in a month...I was deprived!  We ordered fajitas and nachos and some cocktail pitchers between the four of us.  Overall it was decent, but then again where I come from mexican food is a tradition so I couldn't expect that level of excellence.  Afterall, London isn't known for their food right?  After dinner we headed back to the hostel to get ready for the night and picked up some wine from the grocery store.  Definitely no 3 euro wine here...
Then we headed to oxford circus street where a lot of the bars and clubs are located.  Sadly, Ben's roommate dragged us to a terrible club that had a low-class crowd and just didn't give me a good feeling.  Definitely not what I had in mind, so Julia and I broke off and tried out another place across the street called Avenue.  This bar was not much better than the previous so we called it a night and took a double decker back to the hostel.
In the morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and got the day started with a trip to Camden Street Market.  This was my favorite part of our entire trip!  There were endless amounts of street vendors selling a range of things from clothes to jewelry to handbags.  I bought a cream-colored little jacket with really delicate pearls and stitching on it that I am so in love with I can't wait to wear it.  It was a splurge but it's one-of-a-kind and will always remind me of my great day in London.  Then we went to the area where there were tons of kiosks selling different types of food which was so much fun to walk through and get samples.  I almost got the mac-and-cheese but pasta is starting to get a little old now so I chose a plate of lo mein noodles and dumplings that were just what I needed to satisfy my asian food craving.  At this point my feet and hands were starting to go numb because of the cold so we decided to get to the train and try to get to Kensington palace.  After asking numerous people the directions to get to the palace we arrived only to find out that it is closed for reconstruction until March.  Thanks everybody for letting us know?  Thankfully there was some good shopping nearby so we went to Zara and H & M for a while before heading over to Harrod's.
Harrod's was spectacular, everything there was top of the line.  Seeing a person carrying a Harrod's bag was so mind-blowing because everything in there is SO EXPENSIVE.  We attempted to take some pictures in the hat section but for some reason that's the only place it's prohibited? So disappointing...We also went to a store called Primark because we saw so many people carrying the bags, but that wasn't as great as we thought and was more like a walmart of semi-cute clothes than a fashionable store.
After Harrod's our feet were really starting to hurt after having walked non-stop since 10am so we met up with Kelsey and Ben for dinner at a traditional english pub near oxford street.  I almost got the fish and chips but I went with the safer choice, a burger with chips and a big ole beer to top off our amazing day in the city.  Then we headed back to the hostel and prepared for our second night out in London that we were determined to make a good one.  Ben took us to a place called O'Neills which was a huge pub that had an upstairs and two bars.  This place was more like it!!  There were so many english people to meet, but I also met people from Australia, Spain, Poland, Italy, and Brazil.  It is so interesting to talk to people from so many different countries, but I will say the language barrier is tough sometimes.  Broken english has become an often used tool to communicate, but I am slowly learning more Italian and already know some french which helps from time to time!  Overall O'Neills was a great success and we had a grand time with all the accents and dancing.
On Sunday morning we got up and decided to check out the portobello market.  It was a cute area with the same idea as camden market, but it definitely wasn't as good as camden.  We found a place called gourmet burger kitchen that was really good for lunch, especially the rosemary skinny fries with garlic mayo dipping sauce...mmmm.  Then we headed over to see the Buckingham Palace, which I really enjoyed seeing because I watched will and kate's wedding and this is where they had their first public kiss.  We also got to walk through St. James Park which was extremely charming and I'm sure it gets green and beautiful in the summer. Next we went back to the shopping area near harrod's and bought some knee-high socks at H&M which are so hard to find, so we had to pounce on the opportunity at warm socks.  Sadly, it was now time to head home after our amazing weekend in London and go back to Firenze.  At this point I was actually looking forward to going back to our apartment and having a nice, clean shower with all my necessities easily accessible.  It is interesting to compare the two cities, Florence vs. London, because of how vastly different they are from each other.  At first I thought Florence was a fairly big city, but now I realize it is acutally quite small in comparison to London where you have to take the tube or a bus pretty much anywhere.  We did spend a good amount of time taking trains and buses, but it was only a small sacrifice to gelato the amazing sites and shopping areas.  What I really missed about Firenze was the food and the prices!  I don't think I could last an entire semester in London without making my dad go broke because even the food was always expensive.  Here I can get my paninis and gelato for a great deal and be perfectly content.
It's great to be back in Firenze for another two weeks before we head to Rome with API.  I've really got to get going on my schoolwork because it has already piled up too much for comfort! Off to bed now! Ciao bellas! xoxo

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Starry Eyed

Sitting in our freezing living room now listening to some Ellie Goudling and relaxing after a pretty eventful weekend.  The roomies are out at the Conad grocery store across from the Ponte Vecchio picking up some things for dinner and walking around for a couple hours.  I passed because I’m exhausted from our trip to Perugia yesterday and last night’s events.  Friday night we all agreed we needed to get out of Florence for the day and wanted to see one of the bordering Tuscan towns. We chose Perugia, a two-hour train ride away into the countryside.  In the morning we concluded that we definitely needed to buy a hat for the trip because it was snowing there so we headed over to the new market to check out their selection.  We spotted a stand with about a hundred different berets, fuzzy beanies, and fedora hats.  I picked a white beanie style that I had seen the locals wearing that I thought suited me and Sydney picked up a camel-colored knit beanie, each were about 16 euro so not bad at all to look just like a Florentine!  We have discovered, unfortunately, that is nearly impossible to “blend in” here.  We stick out like sore thumbs and the Italians automatically respond to you in English even if you try to speak to them in Italian!  We were disappointed but I’m still going to try so that I get better at conversation and hopefully by the end I can trick some of them into thinking I really am Italian.  Every day we pick up new phrases and words for things but it is a slow process with only having Italian class twice a week for an hour.  Some of the people in my class are worse at learning new languages than I expected so we have to spend a lot of time on the basics which is kind of frustrating. 
            Anyways, back to Perugia.  After we bought our stylish hats we trekked over to Santa Maria Novella train station to catch our train.  It wasn’t exactly like the trains in Harry Potter but it was clean and we got to sit facing each other in fairly comfortable seats.   As soon as we pulled out of Firenze it started slurrying and we got a great tour of the hills of Tuscany covered in a bed of snow.  It was so beautiful it almost reminded me of WWII and gave me the chills even thinking about it.  We did run into some technical difficulties however….all of a sudden billows of smoke started passing through our windows, the train came to a halt, and everyone started standing up.  This freaked me out because the only thing around us was snowy forest and distant little towns that I thought we might be forced to walk to for help!  It honestly felt like some dementors were about to take over our train and suck the happiness out of us…..
But the train thankfully came back to life fairly quickly and we were on the move again.  Finally we arrived in Perugia and took a little bus up to the top of the town that was placed on a hilltop.  It was colder than any of us expected and after being exposed to the weather for more than thirty minutes our fingers and toes started going painfully numb.  It was obvious that the Italians are not used to this level of winter either because most of the stores and restaurants were closed and there were hardly any people out on the streets.  It was almost like a ghost town.  In passing I spotted a quaint little place to have lunch where we ordered a bottle of red wine to warm us up.  There were no English translations on this menu (definitely not in Florence any more…) so Amy asked the waiter what he recommended.  I chose a creamy tortellini with funghi (mushrooms) and salsiccia (sausage) that was very good and filled me up quickly. 

  Then we decided to bear the cold once more and explore the town.  There were many buildings and structures of stone that hinted at how old they  were.  All of the churches were locked so we couldn’t go into any, but we got to see some great views of Italy there.  After walking around for about two hours we decided that we couldn’t stand the cold anymore and headed back to the train station early.  On our way back a car of two men spit at us, only solidifying that we needed to get home fast.  We also realized this was the very town where Amanda Knox lived, probably the reason why the locals didn’t quite meet us with open arms.  I could see how the town would be vibrant in the summertime, but at that very moment it was eerily quiet.  Back to Firenze!!!  We grabbed a cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) at the train station cafĂ© and then hopped on the train where we were thanking the gods for the heated cabins.  Amy, Kayla, and Katie decided to get a hotel in Perugia and go to Assisi on Sunday (today) for more sightseeing. 
            

   
Once we got back we all went to the conad and picked up wine, a baguette, some fizzy sprite-like drink and crackers and brie to munch on.  The cooking warmed us all up and we felt much better after having a warm dinner.  We also had our first power surge because we had the washer, oven, and toaster on all at once.  Oops?  Yeah…So with the light of my computer we eventually figured out how to turn the power back on and started to get ready to go out.  We had a fun night at a place called Red Garter where lots of study abroaders go.  They had a dance floor and karaoke, which I’ve found the Italians absolutely love for some reason.  We stayed there for a while and met all sorts of Italians while practicing my broken Italian on them.  Then we headed back to our favorite spot Naima to meet with Sergio and Giorgio to go to the club Fullup.  We rolled back into the apartment at a mere 6am and plopped onto our beds for the night. 
            Our Api advisors keep telling us that there is an emotional cycle that students go through when studying abroad that starts out with a honeymoon period and then moves into a culture shock period typically from homesickness and sadness.  STILL haven’t hit that point yet and am riding out my Italy high wave as long as I possibly can!  Hmmmm, I’m hungry….going to go make a panini.  Arrivederchi!


Ciao!
It is absolutely frigid here in Florence and none of us were prepared for this level of cold!  The gusts of wind practically burn your skin it's so unpleasant that we have resorted to stay in for the rest of the night instead of bearing the night.  In other good news I received my new debit card today in the mail!  Earlier this week I had a minor tragedy when I tried to withdraw money three times and got rejected.  Soon afterwards Amy pointed out that my card was expired this month and the bank just failed to inform me of that, gotta love wachovia.  So after having a short-lived panic attack and about an hour on the phone with the bank people and missing out of the school-wide dinner I got a new one over-nighted to my parents and then to me.  So I finally have money again and might be more tempted to venture into a couple of the boutiques I've been eyeing on the way to class.  This was also my first week of school, which so far I am really enjoying.  I have a feeling of excitement for all the projects and and lectures that never happens for my classes at Uga.  On thursday I was so overcome with a sense of fulfillment that I could myself smiling way more than normal.  And I know the reason is because I'm taking subjects that interest me and will actually apply to my career instead of slaving over things like accounting and finance.  It's also been great meeting the people in my classes, I met a guy from Washington D.C. in my international marketing class who I partnered up with to do an exercise and a couple of girls from Clemson (Southerner's yay!!!).  My teacher has worked in the fashion industry for 15 years so hopefully I can get to know her better and she can give me some career advice!  After that I had Italian, which by the way, this is the first time I have ever wanted to start a language course so badly!  It will be so much less intimidating to interact with the street vendors and waiters once I learn some key phrases and  can actually hold a conversation.  That night we headed over to our favorite hangout Naima through the snow and had a few beers just to get out of the apartment for a little while.  Wednesday I had a grueling day with class all the way from 9am to 640 pm....it was worse than high school!  First I had fashion illustration, which is a very fun class that teaches you the steps to become a fashion designer.  We went on a little field trip to buy art supplies for sketching models and picked up sketchbooks and portfolios.  The people in my class were very diverse, a rowdy group of friends from Mexico City provided me with lots of entertainment.  Especially Mario, a chubby, yet very sassy boy that made me laugh on several occasions when he would say "Chowwwww!" I also made friends with a girl from Sweden who I went to lunch with during our break at the school cafe where we had a panini and warm cappuccino.  She is very sweet and speaks fairly good english, it was just interesting to talk to someone from different a completely different country.  Then we headed back and learned how to start drawing mannequins in different positions which is surprisingly VERY hard.  That's a skill I'm definitely going to have to refine....Next I had design sewing and I learned how to thread a sewing machine and did some basic stitches but I am definitely on the path to making finished pieces of clothing!
I really love my fashion marketing teacher, she waltzed in with a fendi computer bag and a louis vuitton purse and was dressed to the nines in a sweater dress with a fur collar and over-the-knee chanel leather boots.  Very high fashion for a teacher.  We even get to watch "The September Issue," the documentary about the life of Anna Wintour.  So awesome!My walk to class is always enjoyable, the building is located in the high fashion area so I always casually walk past Chanel, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton on the way and ogle at the shiny shoes and luxurious handbags.  It feels like I'm in a dream and I'm just waiting to wake up.  Sometimes I consider moving here to live and do fashion because it's actually more high fashion than I expected.  Being here has opened my eyes to all my options for careers and ways of life and it is so refreshing!  Now I just have to go to a few bookstores and copy shops to pick up all my books (which are way cheaper here btw) and sewing supplies before next Tuesday! On thursday night we all went to an apertivo, which is where you go to a bar and pay for one drink and the have a buffet of food all-you-can eat.  It was really fun and there were so many Italians there enjoying blowing off some steam after a long day of work?  On the way home we picked up some yummy cookies and desserts to munch on.  Loving my new Florentine life! Xoxo


Friday, January 27, 2012

Babylon

Today has been a day of relaxation and recovery from our previous nights shenanigans.  The night was definitely one to remember that's for sure...

We started our evening by cooking some pasta and meatballs along with some garlic bread for dinner all together.  Sydney and Kelsey discovered a brand of red wine that for 3 euro you get 1.5 litres of smooth amazingness.  After enjoying our family meal and exchanging funny stories and talking about our home lives, we cleaned up, got ready, and headed over to a bar a few blocks over called Cruise.  As soon as we walked in we were bombarded with other API students, wayy too many americans for my taste.  We decided to take advantage of the 5 shots for five euro deal, ordering a round of kamikaze shots.  A boy in our group suggested we all go to a bar called black stove, but we couldn't seem to find it.  Amy, Julia, Sydney and I all broke away from the massive pack of americans and decided to head back to Naima, the bar we went to on tuesday night.  The drinks are relatively cheap here so we order big glasses of beer and mingled with the people.  After being harassed by a guy who told me he loved me and could he give me "kiss," a guy named giorgio sat next to us at the bar and struck up a conversation with us in relatively fluent english.  Turns out he is roommates with the bartender Carlos.  Then the gatto bombs came along...yikes.  Anyways, we all decided to wait for the boys to get off work and head to another place called Babylon where more Italians hung out.  Naturally, Sergio (the owner of Naima) knew all the B list people aka Bouncers, Bartenders etc. so we didn't have to pay cover charges and were taken to our place in the corner booth with a bottle of grey goose and red bulls.  This place was clearly a hot spot for the locals because it was packed to every inch of the room with raging partygoers.  The DJ was amazing, his mixes were infectious and my friends and I couldn't bring ourselves to stop dancing until 4am.  Then we moved on to another place called Fill Up which had separate VIP rooms and each had a Dj and a bar.  There were neon lights and lots of people dancing salsa to classic 90's music.  Eventually we decided to head back to Naima where we late-nighted some more and goofed off with our new Italian friends.  Sergio ordered us some panino's, one of which was hard-boiled egg and mozzarella...it was good at the time?  Giorgio offered to make us some spaghetti back at his place and there was talk of us trekking up to the Piazza de Michelangelo to watch the sun rise.  Ultimately the sunrise was still two hours away so we forfeited that idea.  As we walked home after our night of madness a wave of extreme contentment came over me.  What a great first week in Firenze, full of making new friends and learning my way around this beautiful, yet mysterious city.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My first Italia post!

It's only my third day in Florence and I already feel like I never want to leave this gorgeous place I will be calling home for the next four months.  I'll start from the airport with my recap of all the chaos that has been happening since I arrived here.  We took a small tram from the plane to the baggage claim where I was thrown into a crowd of anxious study abroaders attempting to grab their luggage all at the same time and finally caught sight of my obnoxiously europe patterned luggage (thanks mom).  I hauled it onto a cart and pushed it along the tiny airport alongside my new roommate/friend Kayla, who I unknowingly ran into on my flight to Munich.  We all loaded up on buses that took us to Hotel Baglioni, a four-star and very authentic Italian style place, and settled into our new Italian quarters where I witnessed the first bidet and heated towel racks...those I liked very much :)  My other two roommates had yet to arrive, so Kayla and two other girls I met at the airport decided to do some looking around and grab lunch before our group meeting at the hotel.
  The weather was perfect on Monday, and when I was in the sun I even had to take my coat off and hang it on my purse.  The open-topped purse I decided to bring, I realized quickly, is not ideal for walking around crowded town centers where gypsies with fake babies circle around you jingling cups of coins and mumbling words at you.  Apparently the thieves are so skilled at ripping you off you won't even feel them slip away with your wallet, which has now caused me to be suspicious of every lingering, semi-sketchy looking man near me.  Better safe than debit-cardless?  
After a few hours of moseying around different piazzas and shopping districts we made our way towards the Arno river....which is so incredibly beautiful/romanitic.  It's also the location of the Ponte Vecchio which is a bridge full of mostly jewelry shops and after seeing the amazing gems in the storefront windows, i decided that I definitely want my engagement ring to come from this place!  The Italians definitely prefer gold over silver, the opposite of Americans I would say.  After taking some pictures we headed back to the city center near the Duomo to find a good spot for a panini to hold us over until dinner.  We came across a tiny shop where the owner, an adorable older italian man assisted us in ordering.  I have very quickly realized how awkward it is being here and not know pretty much a word of Italian, which means I have to resort to hand gestures and pointing to get my point across.  I knew Rosetta Stone would've been worth it....
Anyway, I picked a pizza wrap stuffed with ham mozzarella  lettuce tomato and deliciousness.  As I eyed the drink fridge I noticed that my precious diet coke and I would not be reunited until I returned to the U.S. because here they substitute it for Coca-Cola Light*.  I guess I'll survive.  The meal was just the right amount and absolutely melted in my mouth.  I concluded that it was definitely worth going back to get another on-the-go pizza sandwich. 
As we headed back to the hotel we passed through a market where all kinds of leather commodities were being sold including jackets, purses, and belts.  I could easily max out a couple credit cards here.  Back at the hotel the entire group of Api students gathered in a conference room where we all began to feel the effects of jet-lag.  Glancing around the room I caught numerous people's eyes rolling into the back of their heads.  Even worse, we were all to go to a planned four course dinner at the rooftop restaurant.  Normally this would have excited me, but who knew it was even possible to be as tired as I was at that point.  I had woken up at 8 a.m. on Sunday and it was now 6:30 on monday and I had yet to sleep more than two hours on the plane.  My roommates and I dragged ourselves up to the restaurant and settled into some cozy booths where we found a lovely table set-up with candles and sparkling water (not a fan).  The first course consisted of a tiny croissant with fresh tomato and mozzarella, a spinach and cheese filled eggroll-type thing, some fried asparagus, and hunks of parmesan cheese over a bed of lettuce leaves.  The next round displayed two different pastas, one penne pasta with peas and white sauce and the other with a basic red sauce.  Both were divine and the difference in the pasta quality was instantly obvious compared to what we have at the local Kroger.  INSANELY  BETTER.  At this point I was starting to get full when another plate was suddenly in front of me, this one bearing a chicken breast with a light brown sauce, some roasted potatoes, and a gelatin looking mound of cream spinach.  Everything was phenomenal.  And finally for dessert we were served a chocolate mousse pie....it was like heaven on earth.  Why can't americans seem to make a decent chocolaty mousse that doesn't taste like air?  In other words it was BOMB.  I didn't have the energy to stick around for the after dessert coffee and headed off to bed where I passed out cold for the night.  
The next day we were provided a brunch in the same restaurant, which intrigued me because I wasn't sure what to expect for an Italian breakfast. I found three different types of croissants and pastries, muesli, some odd juice with three different fruits combined, coffee americano, hard-boiled/scrambled eggs, lots of fresh fruit (I had a succulent apple, so fresh!) and lots of cold meets and breads.  I was happily surprised to find that it is  fairly similar to our breakfast and chowed down before racing to our next meeting downstairs.  This is where we learned about our upcoming excursions, housing information, and cultural events for the semester.  There was mention of wine tastings, museum exhibits, and even a spa day?!  That's my kind of excursion!
After that we were free to go out into Florence until 3:30 where we were to meet back at the hotel for a guided city tour.  This time I went with all five of my new roommates, Sydney, Kayla, Amy, Julia, and Kelsey. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio and finally decided to lunch at an outdoor cafe where I ordered a ham cheese and tomato panini and my first glass of vino!  I chose the house white and man, did it go down nice and smooth.  A step up from barefoot, yes.  The sun was shining and we all chatted and got to know one another over our glasses of wine when it really hit me, how lucky I am to be in such a beautiful, amazing city.  
Today was just another amazing day for me.  After moving into our sick apartment, we decided to nap and then go for another stroll in town.  We ventured into the Santa Croce district which is apparently not the safest area, but low and behold we found a wine tasting bar that we want to try out and about twenty different boutiques with amazing clothes!  After walking along the river and seeing the Grand Bibliotheque we headed back towards our apartment in search of a supermarket.  Luckily we found a nearby one where I was able to buy cereal, milk, fresh bread, swiss cheese and salami, and some other necessities.  For dinner we decided to be touristy and go to the jersey shore pizzeria called O'Vesuvio where I got to see snooki's bra and Deena's underwear.  The pizza was surprisingly big, I ordered a tomato, bacon, onion, garlic, and parmesan pizza that literally melted in my mouth.  The road to obesity has truly begun....
I am so blessed to have the opportunity to live in a city this full of life and culture, and I couldn't have asked for a better home base :)The food was to die for, the buildings were intricate and have so many stories behind them, and my new friends were amazing.  Life couldn't get any better!