In Praise of Minimalism: Vegetarian and Italian Food Traditions

I love the ethos of Italian cuisine. Variety may be the spice of life, but simplicity is its main ingredient. Whether that’s a warm cup of tea before bed or a small, quiet moment with someone you love, it doesn’t have to scintillate for it to be recognizably beautiful. Thus, the food of Italia. There are no surprises when you eat, and the ingredients don’t attempt to impress you. To begin with, there are never usually more than three or four ingredients at all, but each is reliably fresh, local, and expertly-prepared. As an ethical vegetarian and one already slightly inclined toward minimalist habits, I felt as if I was among birds of the same feather during my stay in Italy and that no more a harmonious marriage of food philosophies could be made than between that of Italy and my own.

The simplicity of vegetarianism is in its economy, but I even find the attendant humility of plant-foods to be an attractive aspect of the diet. It’s true that eating at a low trophic level can be an incredibly sustainable dietary choice in a world of increasingly limited resources and can constitute an affordable diet for those on a college budget. However, for me the real charm of vegetarianism is in the daily ways it connects me to myself and to those I care about. During moments of intermittent relief from the daily deluge that life normally brings, I love to prepare my own food. It’s a simple pleasure to be able to wash and chop my own vegetables and take the time to prepare a meal for either myself or those I love. Whether it’s warm bowls of veggie soup or spiced porridge on wintry days, or colorful fruit salads in spring, it does satisfy something besides just hunger. It’s a way to care about myself, my friends and family, and the planet that we inhabit.

There’s a similar flavor that is imparted to the food you eat in Italy, not just in the way it’s prepared, but in the way it’s eaten. Everything seems to move just a little slower in Italy, and that includes the meals. That can be frustrating for those of us used to a hit-and-run, grab-and-go lifestyle, but the evening repast in Italy is less about the food one eats and more about who has joined you for it. And hopefully you like who joins you; it wasn’t uncommon when I was in Italy for dinner to push three or four hours long, with the expectation that you were involved in lively conversation with your tablemates. Therefore, a simple meal becomes more. It’s a facilitator, a binding agent, and the unimposing complement to something already good: human companionship.

There is something quite beautiful about the unassuming—the things that don’t ask for attention or reward, so simple that they can only be honest, so obviously good that they can be the first to get overlooked precisely because of their simplicity. I discovered a few of these things in Italy—whether it was line-drying my clothes in the orchard behind the Casale San Giorgio of Barbarano Romano, hiking up the San Giuliano plateau on brisk yet golden mornings, or traipsing over hills bespangled with wildflowers in the hopes of finding ancient Etruscan tombs. Yet the best part about the simple things is that they are for everyone, and you certainly don’t have to go to Italy to find them. They are likely right beside you.

 

— Anna Lam

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Ella’s Travel Makeup Bag

I like to think I’m a minimalist. Or at least I like to think that I’m TRYING to get there. (Spoiler: she was not, in fact, doing much to achieve this goal). As it is, my travel makeup bag has shrunk a good deal in the past two years. When I’m traveling, I tend to gravitate towards smaller, lighter products and often ones that can multi-task. I’m visiting home for two weeks, so keep reading to see what I’m bringing along.

The Face:

I tend not to use foundation or even tinted moisturizer because my skin runs fairly oily and I still haven’t found a product that doesn’t end up looking cakey on me, so I’m just bringing my Milk Makeup Blur Stick and  Glossier Stretch Concealer. The blur stick is great for oil control and evens out the tone of my skin a little. The concealer is quite bright and dewy so it’s great for areas like my under-eyes and around my nose, but it doesn’t do much for coverage. Which is fine for me, because I don’t really look for that in a concealer. I’m also bringing Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk, which I use under my cheekbones to accent them, and my Glossier Haloscope for highlight. Although I generally use a bit of powder on my T-zone for oil control, I decided not to include it in my travel bag.

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The Eyes:

For my eyebrows, I’m just using my all-time favorite brow product: Glossier Boy Brow in black. It grooms and fills brows at the same time, which is great for people with sad brows (me) and people who don’t know how to do their brows (me). For eyes, I’m bringing the Jillian Dempsey Lid Tint in bronze, which is a sheer yet buildable cream eyeshadow. I also use cloud paint as eyeshadow, when I’m feeling a slightly peachy/brown eye.  My eyeliner situation is a bit strange. I haven’t found a single eyeliner that stays on my eyelids longer than two hours—gel, liquid, or pencil (even while using the Smashbox eyeshadow primer). What I did discover was that layering a liquid eyeliner OVER a pencil eyeliner somehow will last me through the day. So, much to the annoyance of my trying-to-be-minimalist-self, I’m bringing two eyeliners with me: a kohl liner by Jillian Dempsey and the Stila All Day liquid liner. My mascara is the Too Faced Better than Sex, which has very bulky packaging. But it’s such a good mascara that I don’t care.

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The Lips:

For lips I’m just bringing my Glossier lipstick in Leo, and the Cherry Balm dot com. These can be worn separately or together to create more intense looks or more natural lips.

And of course everything fits neatly into a Glossier pink pouch, which I really love using when I travel because it’s like I bubble-wrapped all my makeup. It fits quite neatly in my carry-on and I don’t have to worry about anything spilling or breaking during my flight.

So, there you have the ten makeup items I bring with me while traveling. I think I’d still like to downsize a bit, though everything fits pretty neatly into one bag so I’d be happy either way.

 

–Ella Liu

In Flight Essentials

 

It’s only been a few weeks since most of us finished traveling for the holidays and, while Christmas Break is always the highlight of my year, traveling—especially planes—can be stressful, acne-inducing ordeals. We decided to share the in flight essentials that make everything a little easier for us.

Skincare

Even with oily skin, planes can dry the face. Especially my lips. Here’s what we bring to prevent dull, tired skin after a long flight.

Caudalie Beauty Elixir: This little beauty is one of my favorite skincare items of all time, not just for travel. It is more concentrated and powerful than most sprays and really makes you feel energized and moisturized and tops it all off with a little je ne sais quoi. Another option is the

Mario Badescu Aloe Water Spray: a few spritz of this and my skin is refreshed and hydrated. It’s light and smells amazing and doesn’t mess up any makeup I happen to be wearing.

Khiels Avocado Eye Cream: Since airplane air is SUPER dry, the under-eye area needs a little extra TLC. A cream eye treatment, like this fantastic one from Khiels, which I’ve had and loved for ages, will do the trick. Just dab a little on and get a little shut eye. When you land, voila! No dark circles. The best part, the full size is TSA regulation size!

Peter Thomas Roth Hyaluronic Moisturizer: I adore this for plane rides because of the hyaluronic acid in it. It takes moisture in the air, and brings it to your skin, which I guess is unfortunate for the rest of the passengers, but so good for your skin, which will parched by the time you land. After cleansing, slap a little of this one, bask in how moisturized it feels, and then continue with your skincare.

If you’re traveling with limited space, just tuck a moisturizer packet into your bag. I have a sample of Belif The True Cream – Aqua Bomb which works fantastically as well.

Glossier balm dot com: There’s a reason these beauties have achieved a cult status. They are moisturizing, convenient, and have the most amazing flavors. Featured here are rose, a lovely pink shade, cherry, a brighter red, and birthday cake, a nude sparkle. They serve double-duty as lipcare and makeup!

Simple Micellar Wipes: Makeup wipes are a must when travelling. Most of the time you won’t have access to a bathroom conducive to washing your face in the sink. There are millions of amazing wipes, but I’ve recently been loving these micellar ones from Simple. As the name suggests, they are simple and easy to use. The best part: they do the job and leave your face fresh, soft, and with zero grease or residue! Go buy a pack or 3.

Makeup

We don’t wear a whole lot of face makeup on the plane, but I do keep some products nearby to prevent me from looking like a zombie after the long trip.

Fenty Beauty Matchsticks: Rihanna. Need I say more? The stick/cream formula makes this travel friendly and super easy to use. I just use my fingers to blend it all in. The three I travel with are a concealer (in Ginger), a contour (in Mocha), and a highlighter (in Starstruck). They look stunning and make it look like you spend more than 2 minutes putting your face on.

Dr. Jart Cicapair Color Correcting Treatment: This is a tiny, TSA approved, jar of magic. The cream starts of green, turns beige, and removes the redness from your face. Every time I use this I’m shocked at how well it works. The only thing it doesn’t cover is major acne, which I then cover up with concealer. It has made foundation irrelevant for daily makeup!

Mini Mascara: One of my favorite tricks is to bring a sample size mascara in my travelling beauty bag because a) it takes up less room and b) it lets me try out new mascaras! Here I’ve been using the Lancome Monsieur Big mascara, which I’m loving and will be buying a full size of!

Glossier Boy Brow: I know, I know. Everyone and their mother raves about this product, but that’s just how good it is! I was born with very long but very sparse brow hairs so this product is perfect for filling in gaps, as well as keeping my brows in place!

Other:

Travel: I use a traveler’s wallet which can hold my passport, ID, ticket, and cash. It’s useful to have everything in one place instead of digging through my bag.

Headphones: Probably the most obvious essential for long flights. I use headphones instead of earbuds since they cancel noise a bit more effectively. I generally wear them around my neck at the airport so they don’t take up space in my bag.

Entertainment: I’ll either have a few episodes of a TV show downloaded on Netflix for me to watch on my phone or a book to read. Obviously, if you’re trying to save room, I wouldn’t recommend a book, but I happened to be flying back to Waco with Christmas presents, many of which were books. I also bring a portable charger, since looking for outlets in an airport is a hassle.

 

Italy Part 1: Rome

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It’s been a long time coming, but here is my Italy Travel Diary from this past summer! I spent a month shadowing a professor at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, but also got to thoroughly enjoy Rome and visit some of my favorite cities. Italy is such a beautiful country and I’m so lucky to have spent the last three summers traveling there. The first two years I did quite a lot of traveling going from the south of France – look for a post on that in the future! – down through Paestum. This year, however, I got to truly live in the suburbs of Rome and experience the city like a true Roman – or as true as an American Chinese girl can get.

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I spent the majority of the month alone – a few friends dropped in here and there – so it had the possibility of getting very lonely if it weren’t for the fact that Italians love to talk. I rented an AirBnB, which was absolutely lovely. The hosts, Chiara and Francesca, were incredibly hospitable and helpful. The apartment was set up rather like a Manhattan loft, small and efficient. There was a loft area for the bed, which was nice, but it was SO SHORT. I’m rather tall for a gal, but I had to well and truly bend over at the waist to walk around up there. If I had a penny for every time I hit my head on that ceiling… That minor inconvenience aside it was absolutely lovely. (Fair warning, though, Italians are rather adverse to air-conditioning and it can get quite hot!)

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I spent a large amount of the month in and around the Vatican as I did a bit of research there. The Basilica itself is so beautiful and restful, especially in the early mornings before the throngs of tourists arrive. Even then it is exciting and contagious to be around the pilgrims and visitors, all singing and happy to be there. 7 am, though, when the doors first open is the best time to arrive. It’s so very quiet and the light is more direct as it shines through the front doors and the windows. All you can hear is footsteps and the soft sounds of morning masses led in many different languages all at once in all the chapels.

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In quite stark contrast to the Vatican is the city itself. From 5am-1am it the city is bustling and busy and loud.  There are a million places to eat and get coffee and gelato. Watch out for the street vendors, they are very friendly and very insistent. Some are quite entertaining.

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My fondest memories of Rome involve gelato. Gelato alone. Gelato with friends. Dropping gelato on myself. Dropping gelato on someone else. Spending far too much on gelato in Florence. The list goes on. I am perfectly happy in almost any gelato store – minus the tourist traps with heaped up, non-melting, imposter gelato – but my favorite places in Rome are: Giolitti’s, Old Bridge, and Fatamorgana Nemorense. Giolitti’s is a massive experience. It’s tourist heavy, but if you can get in at a good hour you can sit down with amazing gelato in a gold-gilded room. Old Bridge is a hole-in-the-wall American-friendly shop. There are no seat, but you get a huge amount of excellent gelato for quite cheap. Fatamorgana is a chain, but a remarkably good one. It’s a neighborhood-shop and boasts flavors like peaches and wine (amazing!), basil honey and walnut, and figs with lavender!

 

The absolute best part of Rome, however, is the history. As someone who studies classical history and literature, the monuments and ruins around Rome are absolutely breathtaking. It’s a surreal experience to walk on the roads that authors and figures I’ve read about walked on thousands of years ago. The Colosseum is breathtaking and for once the crowds of tourists add to the experience, recreating what it must have felt like to be there as a Roman. The Forums are stunning and the Palatine – though a hike – provides a magnificent view of the rest of Rome. An added bonus: the cats wandering all over the city, sitting in temples like they are the kings and queens of Rome. And who’s to say they aren’t?

 

Every time I come back from Rome I miss it immediately. I miss the food and the gelato and the sounds. I miss the buzzing atmosphere and the laughing and warm people. All I can say is: Arrivederci, Roma, a presto!

Summer into Fall Look-book

The month of September is always a bit tricky; moving into slightly cooler weather and seeing the PSL’s return to Starbucks drives me to pull out the over-sized sweater and my ever-so-trusty pair of Ralph Lauren booties. BUT, I live in Texas at the moment, which means days start out cool and breezy and by midday they have reached 90 degrees again. Sigh. Two seasons in the space of 24 hours. I’m not entirely ready to pack up my summer wardrobe either. I am definitely not the only one in this predicament, so I figured I’d shoot a look-book of summer looks that can be easily modified to suit the awkward, in-between season that is September in the South.

 

This first outfit is something Cindy threw on whenever she couldn’t think of anything to wear. Denim dresses were big this summer as well as block-heels. To move this look into the fall, swap out the denim dress for the popular denim jacket or a more fall-friendly version Replace block-heeled sandals with block-heeled pumps.

 

 

Midi length skirts in broderie anglais and bold patterns, such as classic stripes, graced the streets throughout the summer and continue to be quite popular on the runways for fall. For the summer these skirts can be styled with brighter colors. I love how the striped skirt looks with red flats (get them here!) and this amazing circle bag. Circle bags, especially wicker ones, were featured all over instagram and Cindy had been wanting a red purse for a while. This piece from Mango checked both boxes in one go! Red is a universally flattering tone, though I like to go for more brown and wine toned reds as I transition to autumn. Utilizing the same lady-like and flattering shape, midi-skirts take on deeper colors and 80s plaid for the fall.

 

Of course one of the easiest wardrobe-transitions is simply to swap out your favorite shorts for a pair of jeans. Vintage-style graphic tees always give you a trendy – now more than ever with the recent popularity of 80s fashion – but laid-back attitude.  Cindy’s top is actually truly vintage and was owned by our mom back in the 80s. The fun, fruity print channels summer vibes with the fruit motif, though the color scheme can easily be switched over to a warmer fall look. With a denim jacket for an on-trend, double denim look, vintage levis, and cognac boots, this can be quite easily transitioned to fall.

 

Mixed patters and bright colors were staples of the summer and as we move into fall, the mix-and-match theme continues. Here Olivia is wearing a gingham top paired with a polka-dotted skirt. The neutral tones of the skirt pair well with the bright saffron top, reversely the high contrast of the skirt compliments the monochromatic look of the top. Summer gingham is replaced with autumn plaid and dramatic polka dots with demure stripes and vintage floral prints.

We love going to downtown Fredericksburg to shoot or just to hang out and shop. It’s such a versatile area; you can go for a chill coffee date or shop or visit the battlefields. Whatever your inclinations, there are plenty of hot spots to hit up in the ‘burg. Here are a few of our favorites.

Hyperion Espresso
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A popular coffee place downtown, Hyperion Espresso.

Goolricks Pharmacy

While the entirety of the downtown area retains a strong retro vibe, Goolricks Pharmacy transports you back in time. It is a real pharmacy, but in the front it serves old fashioned cream sodas, milkshakes, and comfort food.

 

There are loads of shops, from food to books to tattoo parlors.

 

My personal favorite store downtown is Blue Shark Antique’s and Collectibles. They have an impressive collection of vinyls and records—not to mention any nerd’s dream hoard of comic books!

Bella Hair
Ask for Libby!

We’ve been getting our hair cut at Bella Hair for years. It’s a wonderful salon with amazing service. If you’re ever around, ask for Libby. She will not only give you the exact styling you are looking for, but also professional and personalized tips and product recommendations.

 

We’ll close with one of our favorite topics. Food. The Virginia is the perfect place for lunch or a midday snack. And for any history fans, George Washington is said to have eaten here!

So there you have it! A rather lengthy, but hopefully informative and helpful post! Welcome, again, to our corner of the internet and thanks so much for visiting!

Shop some of our fall picks:

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