Do you hurry from event to commitment, head down, exhausted and frazzled at the end of the day? How often do you take care of yourself, take genuine pleasure in cooking for you, setting the table with your finest china and cracking open that bottle of wine you were saving for the perfect moment?
I have started on a mini-journey to live a more beautiful life, one small step at a time. I figure if I incorporate something new each week, a way to truly enjoy the beauty that is living instead of merely surviving, I will continue to be one step closer to being truly beautiful on both the inside and out.
Here are some ways that I am adding dashes of beauty in my life, follow along and let the sun shine in!
BELLA FIGURA: How to Live, Love and Eat the Italian Way by Kamin Mohammadi
I am always on the hunt for a book that educates, inspires and entertains, and Bella Figura is IT for this summer. Imagine Eat, Pray, Love + Under the Tuscan Sun + The Little Book of Hygge (with a dash of The Silver Spoon), all wrapped up in a sumptuous sensory overload, Italian style.
Journalist Kamin Mohammadi left her life in London behind, feeling the way I felt when I left corporate life in the dust: worn out, over-worked and passionless. She takes a seemingly random proffered opportunity to live in Florence as a way to reboot her sluggish and stressful life, shedding everything she has known in trade for everything that is new and unfamiliar.
“Bella Figura” is a way of life, and Kamin cultivates her own way of living that beautiful figure of life. Each character in the story adds to her recognition of this notion. Luigo the bartender at her favorite cafe, introduces her to bella figura, stating that in Italy, it is “about being the most beautiful you can be, all the time, in every way…speaking beautiful words, being beautiful to yourself, even in private…self-respect.”
From the plumber who notices the sad meals she thoughtlessly puts together, taking over and cooking a simple Italian dish in her kitchen, to the produce stall owner who wakes up her senses from the tasteless English imported fruits and vegetables with nostrale– ours, local- produce, she slowly learns to live la dolce vita.
Of course there are the requisite dashes of romance- this is Italy, after all- that test her sensibilities and self-respect through a series of difficult but sensational affairs. Live life vicariously through Kamin as you read this book, then set your own rules to live la bella figura.
I am a gardener at heart since I grew up in a rural area surrounded by farmland. My family planted and harvested our own massive garden, and each summer our dinner plates were graced with whatever that plot of land produced. Earlier in the summer we would eat cucumbers with vinegar and sugar, and our late summer meals consisted of buttery ears of peaches and cream corn.
Here is one of many recipes scattered throughout Bella Figura, using seasonal produce as Kamin’s year in Florence progresses. This recipe is perfect to use those farmer’s market tomatoes and basil that come directly from the garden, still warm from the summer sun.
Caprese “farro” salad
5.5 oz farro
Sea Salt, to taste
Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 large buffalo mozzarella
2 large tomatoes
Large handful of basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, to taste
Wash the farro in a bowl, passing plenty of water over it. Heat water in a large pan and salt when boiling. Add the farro and cook for around 30-40 minutes. Drain and let cool, then mix with some olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.
Slice the mozzarella, chop and add the tomatoes, and tear in some basil leaves. Dress with oil and either balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, season to taste, and serve.
Please, please, please don’t save that bottle of wine for a special occasion. YOU are a special occasion! Pop that baby open and savor it with all of your senses. My husband and I bust out a bottle of bubbly most Sundays- no, we don’t splurge on Dom but we found a reasonably priced bottle that we enjoy. Here are some of my favorites:
Segura Viudas Brut Cava- grab a magnum of this at Cost Plus World Market for brunch this weekend. It is the best bargain of any sparkling white out there and tastes SO much more expensive than it is. We bought this for our wedding!
Ruffino- THIS IS MY FAVORITE. After dozens of bottles of sparkling rosé, this was the clear winner! It is fruity without being sweet, bubbly without being aggressive, and just delicious.
There are three things I need to feel put together- statement earrings, lipstick and big sunglasses. Even if I walk out of the house with no makeup and hair piled upon my head, I often have people remark that I always look ready for the day (PS- I’m not).
Don’t want to invest in trendy earrings or jewelry that you will only use once in a while? I rent mine! Rocksbox is a jewelry membership service where for $21/month, you receive three pieces of jewelry that you approve of (with a little help from your stylist). Pieces can be exchanged as often as you like- if you love the pieces in your current set, keep them for weeks! If you have an event-specific piece, send your set back and grab new ones after. Your stylist takes your “wishes” and feedback into account and sends three new pieces, with the option to swap if you aren’t a fan of the selections. And yes, you can buy items from your set at a discount…see how I couldn’t give these Perry Street Pink Isla Drops up?
If you want a free month of Rocksbox, use my code CHERYLBFF54 at checkout. They have my favorite designers such as Kendra Scott, Kate Spade and House of Harlow 1960…and it cuts down WAY down on my impulse trendy purchases. I mean, jeweled flamingo earrings are fabulous but…not a forever piece, right?
As for lipstick, I just discovered LipSense (above, in Be Mine). I am not a fan of traditional lipstick- way too drying for my parched pout, and I would rather not wear any lipstick than be caught with that telltale ring around my mouth when it starts wearing off. I was waaaaay skeptical about this at first, mainly because it is a MLM (multi-level-marketing) business (yeah, I did Mary Kay for a month…I might be the only person ever who gets told that they aren’t the ideal candidate for a MLM company- I totally suck at sales).
LipSense legit lasts for 12-18 hours- I often wake up the next morning after a night out and my lipstick looks like I just applied it. Scary? A bit, but you won’t know if you don’t try. It isn’t cheap- you need the color, gloss and remover to start out which runs around $55 total. I won a kit at an event, which got me started on the train. Here is where you can check it out!
As for oversize sunnies, the requisite eyewear for every mom who celebrated a night of freedom from the kids last night a little too much, I love one quirky, trendy pair each year. Last year I purchased these from The Mexican Shop in Evanston, a total dupe for the Prada Minimal Baroque pair that costs upwards of $400. Over it. Mine cost under $20. This year I am on the hunt for something similar to the Tom Ford Whitney…let’s see if I can beat that $415 price tag!
Cheers to living a beautiful life for YOURSELF!