Saturday, January 31, 2015

My Starter Story: Journey to Domestic Goddess-hood

Last week, I recieved an email that has me so excited! Compass, a New York City based real-estate platform, reached out to me to be a part of their Starter Stories project! After scoping out their site for much longer than I care to admit (I might be procrastinating writing report cards...) and absolutely falling in love with a number of the NYC villages they feature, I'm feeling very inspired to share with you my own starter story and journey toward Domestic Goddess-hood.

My mother is a Domestic Goddess if I ever saw one. 

Growing up, our house was always in perfect order, and we had a delicious and homemade dinner every night. My mom has a way of decorating that makes a room instantly homey, elegant but interesting, and welcoming that is impossible to replicate. Between her DG skills and my dad’s home-improvement talent, our home is beautiful. My hope is that this is a trait of hers that I’ve inherited and that I’ll be half as good of a DG as she is someday!

When I signed with my current school, we were given the option to either find our own place in Milan when we arrived, or move into one of the apartments in a nearby town that the school would find for us. I opted for the second option, and was given two choices. I remember opening the email containing pictures of the two right before my grad-school thesis defense and feeling so overwhelmingly excited and nervous. Immediately, I fell in love with the beautiful kitchen of apartment #2 and quickly responded that I’d love to live there!

Fast-forward three months, and I was walking through the door for my first big-girl apartment. Yes, I’d had a darling little place all to myself the previous year, but this wasn’t college; this was my own apartment, one that I’d be living in without a roommate, be paying for on my own, without loans, in ITALY!

Here are a few pictures from right after I moved in:

I wrote a post shortly after moving in that you can check out here! For the rest of the post, pictures show what my apartment looks like as of January 2015. Hopefully it'll continue growing to look more like me!


For the past five years I had moved into a new dorm or apartment each year. 

My parents had helped me out each time, making the trek down to Alfred with the pickup truck overflowing with all of my hand-me-down furniture and florescent pillows. This time, I arrived alone with just my suitcases. The rest of my belongings would come a few months later after traveling by boat across the Atlantic. I have to say, finally having my shipment arrive and moving myself in was an incredible feeling.

My apartment has become more ‘me’ as the year has gone by. That amazing kitchen that I love so much started out cute, but now is full of touches of home; I have my grandma’s dishes from England and beautiful goblet glasses, mugs from places I’ve traveled, and little touches here and there from Florence, Nice, Berlin, Rome, and, of course, Anthropologie. Sitting at the kitchen table is my favorite place to plan out my week, and if I have to write these dreaded report cards, at least it’s in an environment I adore!

My living room was my least favorite room for a while. I have a huge L-shaped couch in the most terrible turquoise, orange, and purple pattern, and the wall was covered in ugly fruit paintings that I wasn’t supposed to remove. Last year I kept the couch covered with a hideous brown sheet, but I’ve embraced the tacky pattern and found sparkly pillow covers in Granada, Spain that make my couch a place I love to lounge, and sneakily replaced the ugly fruit paintings with prints I picked up in Paris. My entertainment center is a particular point of pride for me- one of my mom’s special Domestic Goddess talents is to create stunning vignettes, and I’m super proud of the one I’ve put together where a TV belongs!

As I’ve created my home, my main challenge has been where to find what I need. At home, if I ever needed anything I could take a quick drive to Target, TJ Maxx, or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Here, I have absolutely no clue where to do that. Sure, I’ve been able to get to IKEA twice, and I’m sure there are home stores around, but I have no idea where they are, how to get to them, and how to transport everything I’d like to get! For example, I can’t find picture frames. The same is true for large Tupperware, a Swiffer, and a shower-rod. On the other hand, being in Europe has allowed me to create the kind of home I’ve always wanted. No matter where I look, there are little touches of the world; the dish of glass candy from Venice on my coffee table, a hanging curtain from Barcelona between my living room and bedroom, a small painting from Rome in the kitchen, a little silver sugar dish from Granada holding all of my bobby-pins on my dresser.

My newest project has been the little cart I picked up at IKEA a few months ago, though between work and travel I have not given it the attention it needs. Like I said, I love working at my kitchen table, but it’s a pain going back and forth to get all of the materials I need from the closet, so I’m making a little ‘office cart’ to go next to my oven (my oven is the size of the microwave I had while living back in America, and my cupcake tins don’t fit. The horror!).


Monday, January 5, 2015


I am legitimately among the luckiest people in the world.

In every area of my life, I feel so fortunate and I couldn't ask for anything more. The next few years are such an incredible adventure, but it's amazing how I can see the world and still there is no where on Earth I'd rather be than home. Usually coming back to Italy goes the same; I get very snuggly for a day or so, cry on and off for the 24 hours before leaving, ball my eyes out as I go through security after hugging my parents goodbye (even when they have to pat down my hair or something, security is always so sweet at that point), and then pull myself together over a Diet Dr. Pepper and some gummy bears or stuffed grape leaves as I wait at the gate for my flight. As soon as leaving and heading back seems inevitable, I'm okay and can start to get excited about my next adventures. 

This time was different. I felt on the verge of tears every minute that I wasn't sleeping on the plane. When an airport employee in Paris told me my bags probably wouldn't be in Milan when I got there (they were), I went in the bathroom and sobbed for a good 20 minutes (usually I would be okay with that-- they'd get there eventually). And when I finally walked through the doors of my apartment 21 hours after leaving home, I cried again. The walls seemed bare, the fridge was empty, and it looked messy and empty. It felt so cold and lonely and impersonal. This was a strange feeling because usually I love my little apartment- it's one of the reasons I stayed in Opera for an extra year rather than moving into the city (that plus the cost). 

So why was this time different? I have travel that I'm looking forward to, I adore my job, and 2014 was probably my best year ever-- 2015 is surely going to be amazing! Over break, my parents and I had a few conversations where I went from, "I don't know if I should stay in Milan, go somewhere new, or come back to the USA!" to, "I'm almost definitely going to stay in Europe, probably in Milan." Their support matters a lot, and their retirement plans made me feel pretty secure that I'd still get to see them a lot if I stayed. Everything points to happiness in Italy, so why was/am I so sad? 


I learned a new Dutch word while lazing around, looking at Pinterest, and it is Gezelligheid. The definition I saw was 'the coziness, warmth and comfort of being at home, or being together with friends or loved ones sharing time in a pleasant and nice atmosphere (n.).' I also looked on the ever-reliable Wikipedia, which informed me that gezelligheid can mean the general togetherness that gives a warm feeling, or time spent with loved ones. A person, place, or event can all be gezellig, which is the adjective associated with gezelligheid. 

Every minute in the USA was/felt/I'mnotsurehowthewordfitsgrammatically gezelligheid. 

We drove from the airport to a family Christmas party my first night, where I was surrounded by people I adore. Making gingerbread houses at my aunt's house was full of the Christmas spirit that I love. The day after Christmas (my sister's birthday) we drove down to New Jersey for two days of laughing and lounging around with more family. Above all, I loved time in my home. I don't say 'my parents house' for a reason. My home is the coziest place on Earth. The second I walk through the door I'm comfortable. It's strange- my parents have been redecorating, and so almost every room is a little (or a lot) different from how it looked when I lived there full time, but it still feels the same. My mom cooked every meal that I love. My dad realized that we only had a VHS of my favorite Christmas movie and no VHS player, so went and got the DVD so we could spend the evening watching A Muppet Christmas Carol next to the Christmas Tree. I fell asleep laying on the living room floor almost every night due to a combination of coziness, being stuffed full of amazing food, and extreme jet lag, and it was perfect. Every time I come home I bring an extra suitcase for all of the errands I need to run (darn it Italy, just get a Target already!), but I don't think I left the house once on my own.  

While some find the constant togetherness of the holidays overwhelming, I need it; the constant presence of the four people I love most is perfection. I was able to get a little work done, but it was always sitting on the living room couch while my mom cooked in the adjoining kitchen or something similar. Even in the brief moments I was alone, being home felt like being hugged; I was just surrounded by love. 

So now I'm back in Milan, and though I don't have that here, I have so much else that I'm looking forward to and beyond lucky to have. I'll unpack and settle back into my apartment and it'll begin to feel more at home again. I'll see my wonderful friends, students, and coworkers and feel connected to my world here. I'll go on my next adventure and remember the adrenaline rush of stepping out into a piece of the world I haven't explored yet. This summer I'll visit the gezelligheid that is my home and feel so lucky that I have somewhere so full of love to go back to.