Desired Destination: Morocco

01/10/2012 § 2 Comments

When the weather turns cooler, my wanderlust for warmer climates always picks up.  I’ve frequently forgone the usual trip home for Thanksgiving in favor of a long international journey somewhere warm.  Last year it was Argentina, two years before that I went to Egypt, and lately my mind has returned to North Africa.  Morocco has officially made its way to the very top of my Desired Destination shortlist somehow, fueled at least in part by the images and inspiration I have been collecting on Pinterest.

My trip to the Maghreb probably isn’t all that far off with flights hovering around $1,000 and no annoying visa procedure for US citizens, but until that day comes,  you can find me wandering among my pictures, wistfully wishing for the smell of fragrantly perfumed tobacco, oranges and coriander, the taste of mint tea and dates, the feel of crisp linen against my body and cool tiled floors beneath my feet, and the sound of the call to prayer at dawn and the souk at dusk.

The harbor town of Essaouira.

Dying to stay at L’Heure Bleue hotel in Essaouira…gorgeous!

Marrakech, the Ochre City.

YSL in Morocco.

YSL at home in Marrakech, what is now known as the Majorelle Garden.

Casablanca

All images via Pinterest.

Quite Continental Desired Destinations
~*~Travel Charmingly
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Open & Notorious Organization

17/08/2012 § Leave a comment

There’s something I love about organization on display, be it a closet, a curio, a bar cart, a gallery wall, whatever — a thoughtful and artistic arrangement of a collection of items will always draw my eye.  I don’t mean to say that one should be a pack-rat, but there is definitely something about spaces where everything is all put away that just seems…sterile.  Vanilla.  Impersonal.  Granted, to pull off some of the scenes in these pictures, you’d need a rather deep assortment of stuff and whatnot….and quite a bit of space to display it all, but why couldn’t you start small?  A few books here, a small grouping of nick-knacks there, and you’re definitely on your way.

For organizational inspiration, a few images from my House & Home board on Pinterest, and a few furniture ideas (yes, I know, pricey indeed — I’ll personally be using them for guidance while I scour eBay and Craigslist for cheaper options).  One of my very favorite spaces is the Manhattan apartment of Michael Haney and Brooke Cundiff, which was shot by Todd Selby last year — definitely check it out.  Aside from getting to take a peek into their envy-inducing home, there are several interesting vignettes and arrangements that are bound to spark an idea or three.

Happy organizing!

From top:
French directoire style ebonized curio cabinet by Jansen (1940s)
Hollywood Regency gilt bamboo etagere (1950s)
Glass sided vitrine (1920s)

From top left:
Belgian metal and glass cabinet (1940s)
Metal cabinet with glass
Industrial steel wire racks on casters

From top left:
English oak barrister bookcase (1890s)
Vintage industrial bar cart
Raw vintage locker (1950s)
Verge cabinet with glass doors

From top:
Pair of steel barrister bookcases (1940s)
Indian metal sideboard with 4 doors
Vintage console

Lastly, if you noticed the adverse possession joke I snuck
into the title of this post, I’d like to salute you, fellow law nerd…

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 29 — The Icing

01/03/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Photo by Ed Clark for Life Magazine, 1955.

Editor’s note: I almost can’t believe that we have reached the 29th post in this series.  February has flown by!  Before I launch into the last installment, I just want to take a quick moment to remark upon what an amazing experience this month has been.  First of all, I am exceptionally thankful for all of your comments and emails and thoughts and encouragement throughout the month.  It is exceptionally gratifying to know that you have been enjoying Charm School as much as I have.  Thank you, thank you!  Second, it has been a distinct pleasure collaborating with some of my favorite people, and I hope you enjoyed meeting them.  And lastly, while February may be over, I’m going to try to carry the spirit of Charm School throughout the year, and I hope you will too.

Day 29: The Icing
Today, for our last lesson, I wanted to mention something I like to call the icing.  At times, when we aren’t feeling grateful, when we let our competitiveness get the best of us, we sometimes start to hang our would-be happiness on future events.  I’m sure I’ll be happy when  I lose 5 pounds.  I will be happy when I get a girlfriend.  I will be happy if…when…  Sound familiar?

The thing is, when we condition our happiness on external events, it is the quickest way to feel bad about yourself in the present.  Moreover, when you perceive a need for things to make you happy, the things are going to keep changing.  The goalposts will forever be moving.  You will always come up short.

Instead, try to remember that you already have everything you need to be happy.  You don’t need a huge engagement ring or a baby or a boob job — you don’t need to be completed, because you are already complete.  You are as complete as that tiny seedling in the picture above.  Everything that seedling needs to become a tree is contained within, just as everything you need to become the fullest expression of yourself is contained within.  You are enough.  Turn your focus inward, not outward.  That way, anything that arrives in your life — that boyfriend, that promotion — is simply icing on the cake.

When I looked back over all of the lessons, I thought it was important to mention this, as I definitely don’t mean to imply that you have to buy any things to create a charming life for yourself.  Rather, I believe that those with charm work on the inside stuff first.  Charming people allow that quality to shine through their daily lives, no matter if they have a nice umbrella or not.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 28 — Be Enterprising

28/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Photo by Nina Leen for Life Magazine, 1956.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Jessica Goldfond, is the founder of the accessories and fashion PR firm and showroom called The Shiny Squirrel, as well as her blog by the same name where she shares her discoveries in style, art, fashion and aesthetics.  She is a lovely, hilarious and giving person, who I feel lucky to call my friend.  Hanging out all over New York aside, I also had the good fortune to travel with Jessica in California this past fall, when we drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco, with an amazing stop over in Big Sur (you can see that trip here).  Along the way we ate amazing tacos, sang classic rock at the top of our lungs, spied on sleeping elephant seals and took in the amazing beauty of my home state’s coast.  She happens to be quite the traveller, with trips to Turkey and Germany on her list for this year.  Of course I am very jealous she’s not taking me along.

When I began the Charm School project, I approached a disparate bunch of individuals, fully aware that they would each bring something different to the “curriculum.”  Confession: I actually had an idea in mind for each of them, ready to delicately suggest, just in case they had trouble coming up with their own topic.  I will admit that I sort of strong-armed Jess into my topic of choice.  I most hoped she would participate because I wanted to hear how she founded her very successful business, because she truly is an inspiration for all the would-be entrepreneurs out there, and because she doesn’t often tell her story.  If you are not yet familiar with Jessica, or The Shiny Squirrel, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Editor’s Sidenote: I have widened the topic only a bit, only because I believe you can derive a lot of personal satisfaction from your life by simply being enterprising.  Here I use enterprising to mean motivated, venturesome, being resourceful and showing initiative.  While this may manifest itself in the founding of a business like Jessica, it doesn’t necessarily require it.  In fact, I’d even include things such as the founding of a book club, a church group, a blog or even using Pinterest under the enterprising umbrella.  The point is, find something that is completely yours, that will excite you, and throw yourself into it.  A charmed life is a motivated, satisfied life, and if money happens to follow, that’s icing on the cake.

Without any further ado, Jessica’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 28: Be Enterprising
I can’t say I have any great wisdom or a formula as to how to make it work or even where to begin. I started my business or the concept that would be my business 6 years ago and been organically letting it evolve ever since. I decided to launch a PR company and showroom because I was tired of working for other people and wanted to feel 70 years from now that I really accomplished something with my life. I have been striving and working on that feeling everyday since.

I think the best way to start a business is to look at what you love and think about how you can formulate that into a plan. It’s important to ask questions, always take calculated risks, and develop the ability to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself.There are no failures if you learn from the mistakes you made along the way. I think a bit of self-reflection always helps to build the foundation of a company and let it take shape. Passion, Hard Work, Kindness, Generosity and patience are definitely some of the key factors in making something successful.

It is always important to remember that a business is built in a series of blocks or stages. Slowly but surely it all comes together over time.

Here are a few things I think would be awesome for building a business:

Present and Correct has some of the best office supplies around and I would love to use this little pad to take invoices if I am writing an order.

I find Fort Standard’s work and products really inspiring and would love to add these building blocks to my growing collection of their work.

I never seem to have a nice pair of scissors on my desk so these are a beautiful shape and have a nice feel to them.

I love having plants around me especially in lovely containers like this.  It is inspiring and refreshing if you have to sit indoors all day on a computer.

by Jessica Goldfond, of The Shiny Squirrel

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 The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 27 — No Contest

28/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Winner of first place high diving award Vicki Manolo Draves with second place winner Patty Elsener at the 1948 Olympics in London.  Taken by Ed Clark for Life Magazine.

Day 27: No Contest
When I saw the picture above, of Vicki Manolo Draves and Patty Elsener at the 1948 Olympics, winners of the first and second places in the high dive, I was inspired to write about something that is related — but not specifically limited — to the sporting world.  In fact, my chosen subject has the ability to permeate our entire lives, pretty much from birth, if left to its own devices.  What am I talking about?  Competition.

On the whole, competition can be a rather tricky thing.  It can positively motivate us to improve, but if allowed to run wild, it also has the ability to poison personal relationships, cause stress and lead to unhappiness.  This double-edged sword needs to be dealt with gingerly.  Please also note a distinction between ambition and competition: ambition means you want bigger and better things, competition means you want bigger and better things than that other guy over there (and maybe even at his expense).

First, identify it.  What are you competing for?  Wanting to be the fastest runner in your jogging group or top of the class is altogether different from a generalized feeling of competitiveness with your coworker, friend or partner for no distinct reason.  Generalized competitiveness is the one you have to watch most closely, because if you aren’t competing for a specific outcome, item or position, then why are you competing in the first place?  What is the prize that you are hoping to gain?  Take a step back and think hard about this.  Is all you really want schadenfreude?

Second, can you be supportive?  I don’t necessarily believe that all competition is negative.  Rather, healthy competition can definitely motivate improved personal performance and achievement, such as sibling valedictorians and husband and wife collaborative teams.  But if you find yourself unable to support your fellow “competitor” like Vicki and Patty appear to be doing above, your may need to admit your competitiveness might stem from feelings of insecurity or jealousy.

Third, call yourself out.  Be brave enough to admit to yourself that your ego is a bit out of control, or that you are envious.  Write it down in a journal and ruminate on why this has gotten your goat.  Better yet, if you are close to the person who is inspiring these feelings, admit to them how you are feeling.  The best way to combat unhealthy feelings of competitiveness is to come clean, either privately or publicly, so that you can begin to deal with what is hiding underneath them.

This can be tricky for me at times.  As an oldest child, I have a natural inclination to be the best and the first.  When the whole world seems to be focused on what I lack, it’s easy to turn that same lens upon myself and identify those who seem to have “it all” as my main competitors: she’s smarter, he’s richer, they’re married, he has an amazing job, etc.  But I’ve come to recognize that in the long run, a tendency to compete will only serve to hurt me — and what is there to win, anyway?  Absolutely nothing.

Let’s do our best to change it together, shall we?  For life is not to be “won” but rather, to be relished.  Let’s endeavor to be thankful for what we’ve got, and to support each other on our path to bigger and better things.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 23 — Go Out and Play

23/02/2012 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Madrid, 1908.  Image via the George Eastman House.

Editor’s Note:  One of the best parts of working with some of my nearest and dearest on my Charm School project have been the times when a contributor has suggested a topic that I had on the brain as well, because I knew if the two of us were both thinking about it, you probably were too.  Case in point, today’s topic.  When Christine sent me the idea for her post (Day 8: Your Family Jewels), she enclosed an additional thought that I also had on my own list of things to talk about this month.  What follows is not another guest post, per se, but I wasn’t about to omit her lovely words from the conversation.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Life moves pretty fast.
If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

-Ferris Bueller

Day 23: Go Out and Play
When we are little, we eternally wish were bigger, older, allowed to stay up late and sit at the grown-up table.  This emphasis on the future, on what is to come, isn’t confined to childhood.  It doesn’t magically stop once we get to watch the Late Late Show.  That yearning to be older is gradually replaced with the notion that we are hurtling towards our future in a runaway train with a busted emergency brake. College! Grad School! Marriage! Children! Career! Retirement! Where Grandfather Time once seemed to ignore us, he now seems to be breathing down our necks as we frantically race to tick all the boxes on the life checklist.

Today, I want to let you know that the emergency brake isn’t really busted.  All your grown-up self needs to do to slow things down, to get a breather and reengage that kid who (shortsightedly) wished he didn’t have to sit at the folding card table at Thanksgiving, is to go out and play.  Rediscover the things you loved to do as a child, and you will definitely receive a respite from the frantic pace of life.  Did you draw as a child?  Why not get yourself a new sketchbook and drawing pencils?  Did you enjoy the dinosaur bones at the museum?  Make a trip to visit them again.  Did you play little league?  Join an adult league.  Whatever you love, I guarantee you will feel the same thrill you used to feel when you buy your art supplies, spy a mastodon, or step up to the plate — I know I do.

Engaging your inner kid will bring great joy to your outer adult and help you truly live in the moment.  I can’t think of anything more charming than that.

By Christine, of N’East Style:
“When I feel like I’m in the thick of things or my life is a horrible mess, I always turn back to the activities that I loved to do as a child. For me a few of those things would be: read Jane Austen or Leo Tolstoy (nerd alert!), watch classic old movies (preferably starring Katherine Hepburn or Paul Newman), sit in a tree, dance in my room, go for a long walk by myself, bake a cake, knit a scarf, or draw in my sketchbook. I think it’s rather common that as you get older, you lose touch with the simple things that you really love to do, and it’s only in your youth that you have the time and stress free existence to regularly indulge in them. Yes, yoga and going on a detox diet of some sort is all fine and dandy. But for me, getting back to my early passions is what really gets me grounded and back in touch with myself. It’s something I don’t do nearly enough, but when I do it’s absolutely fabulous.”

How do you indulge your inner kid?
How will you go out and play?

Image via the National Maritime Museum.
The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

For Serious, Matilda.

22/02/2012 § 8 Comments

Taken by Nina Leen, 1947.

There is no real reason I selected this picture, other than for its awesomeness.  I like to call it: “This hat and I are about to kick your ass in bridge.  For serious, Matilda.”

Today, I am getting serious about Lent, though.  I’m not especially religious, nor am I a Catholic (I’m actually a lapsed Episcopalian), but every Lenten season, I like to challenge myself to give up something.  For those unaware, Lent runs from Ash Wednesday (today) through Easter Sunday; 40 days in total.  For Christians it is a period of penitence, of giving up certain luxuries and of fasting.

Am I turning into a Sunday School blog? Hardly.

But I do think the concept of penitence is applicable universally, no matter what altar you choose to worship at.  A 40 day period is a great amount of time to reflect upon yourself, your personal habits and things you might want to change.  To abstain from some of your bad habits for 40 days will take some willpower.  I once managed to convince a very unhappy Mister to give up booze with me, rough going indeed, but we survived.  They say it takes only 30 days to cement a new habit, so why not seize upon the season to make some purposeful changes?

What I will attempt to give up for the next 40 days:

  • The snooze button.  You will be profoundly missed!
  • Those delightful bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches I’m very fond of
  • …and dairy in general, for that matter.
  • Passive negativity

What about you?

Sidenote: Would you believe this is my **600th** post?  In the spirit of gratitude, I wanted to send a big thank you to all of my followers, old and new.  I hope you understand how much I really appreciate your reading and comments and emails and sharing of this silly little blog.

You guys are the absolute tops.
xoxo. M.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Reach me via email at contact@quitecontinental.net

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Quite Continental Charm School: Day 16 — Select a Signature Scent

16/02/2012 § 7 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Taken by Hans Wild for Life Magazine, 1947.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Anne, founder of the fashion and culture blog Ritournelle, is a lovely French expat currently living in New York City.  She works in the beauty industry and is my frequent partner at some of the best museum and auction house exhibits in the city (where I frequently act like something of a living duck blind so that she can sneak photos, sshhhh!).  Her encyclopedic knowledge of beauty and fragrance companies, especially French ones,  is second to none, and as I am always in need of a good tip — and who isn’t?! — I quite enjoy picking her brain for new discoveries.  The fact that she almost always comes bearing some sort of French delicacy is icing on the cake.  She’s like my own private Inès de La Fressange.

Ritournelle is a place to visit if you love Paris, Dior, Charlotte Gainsbourg, fashion history and would like to practice your French language skills (all her posts are in both French and English!).  If you are not yet familiar with Anne or Ritournelle, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Anne’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 16: Select a Signature Scent
My perfume is one of my most treasured possessions. I grew up in the rainy Normandy countryside, surrounded by a lush garden from which scents of moss and flowers, surprising by their variety, would compel me. Nothing stirs me more now than the green notes of galbanum and earthy iris roots from my Chanel N°19 bottle. You will often find me obsessively sniffing my wrist like a drug, a gesture that appeases while revitalizing me.

In France, fragrance is an essential and intimate part of a woman’s life. She would not consider starting the day, much less leaving her house, without a spritz. Moreover, each perfume worn over time defines a certain period of her life. The chosen brand and perfume, its concept and notes reveal much about her personality. Think about it: the woman who wears the strong, oriental, in-our-face Opium by Yves Saint Laurent leads her life far differently from the one who favors fruity, playful and innocent Petite Chérie by Annick Goutal. Yet, I quote Hermès perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, “The perfume must say, ‘I have many secrets: I am who I am, but you may not know everything about me.’ In any case, the perfume builds up the other self. The one I am and the one I wish I was.”

In order to find the perfume that you can call your own, got to the brands which values you cherish most. Are you more drawn to traditional and Parisian houses like Guerlain and Hermès or to modern, urban ones like Le Labo and Byredo?

Make your purchase an event to look forward to: experience it during a trip abroad or in a refined store where you will get the best advice (like MiN or Aedes de Venustas in New York). Try fragrances first on blotters, but be aware that what you smell on paper is very different than on your skin. Let your emotions guide you and take your time; it can be a lengthy process with several trials. The ideal fragrance should surprise you by its power of bringing out your emotions all while being the perfect olfactory expression of yourself. (For example, I adore Iris Nobile by Aqua di Parma, it’s a great fragrance, but that solar citrus note is just not me). When you come down to a couple you like, spritz each one of them on a different wrist (without rubbing!) in the morning and see how they evolve during the day to measure their quality and chemistry with your skin.

You needn’t be loyal to your fragrance. Think of it as a wardrobe: you have your outfits for work and days off, and those that you save for a special occasion. Likewise, adopt a more sensual perfume for nights out. For example, I’ll trust the rich and voluptuous 34 boulevard saint germain by Diptyque to set me in the right mood. Then, I change perfumes according to the season: when spring comes and temperatures rise, I will switch to a lighter fragrance, like Un Jardin après la Mousson by Hermès.

How do you choose your fragrance?
Do you stay loyal to one perfume or do you experiment with different scents?

by Anne, of Ritournelle.

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 15 — Keep a Travel Journal

15/02/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Charles A. Lindbergh’s flight journal. Photo by George Silk.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  Jen Swetzoff is a writer, editor, mommy and the founder of the travel blog Parenture (parenting + adventure) where she focuses on family-friendly vacations, the best gear for families on the go and gives her readers an inside look at the places she travels to with her husband and her daughter, Baby E.

A secret: how I know Jen differs from all of our guest speakers thus far.  Ours is a friendship that predates either of our blogs, in fact — I met Jen very soon after my arrival in New York, and we worked together for some time.  I’m especially in awe (jealous) of the fact that she has travelled to twenty countries on six different continents in the last ten years.  And while I am not a mom myself, the locations that Jen suggests, especially those upstate, almost automatically get added to my to do list.  If you are not yet familiar with Jen or Parenture, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Jen’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 15: Keep a Travel Journal
Honestly, writing often feels like the last thing I want to do on vacation. But I do it anyway. Because no matter what other souvenirs I carry home, my travel journal ends up being the most treasured. Cameras are amazing, and I always pack one of those, too, but they’re predictable. Reliable. They always do the same thing and do it well. They capture clear and accurate moments of time–instants really, that exist and then fade away–and make them stand still forever. Which is great for people like me with crappy memories.

But words, written in our own sloppy handwriting, are fluid and imprecise and subjective. Which makes them either hilarious or profound in retrospect. Even when I’m not in the mood to put pen to paper (both of which I always have in my bag, locally and on the road), the right travel journal–a brand new book–is inspiring. Its openness gives me the same sense of hope that planning a trip does. On its pages, I can think, dream, remember, record, realize. Because anything’s possible on a blank page. Anything can happen on a great adventure. So even if you don’t have a trip planned yet, get yourself a travel journal.

Here are a few of my favorites to get you going:

Hands down, this Smythson is the classiest travel journal on the market. For some reason, it makes me think of Out of Africa. But I gotta say, I like the pretty pink version too.

I love a classic Moleskin, with all its literary history, but this company just gets better with age. Have you seen the new Moleskin travel journal?

The colorful and lighthearted journals from Archie Grand just make me smile.

Loving this adventurous notebook as well.  It’s also a Moleskin, but has been screen printed by the lovely print shop and design studio Fifi du Vie

Bon voyage!

by Jen Swetzoff, of Parenture.

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 14 – Write Love Letters

14/02/2012 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Waverly Place, New York, 1968. Image via the George Eastman House.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you are having a wonderful day filled full of all sorts of love!  The city felt quite festive today, with lots of flowers and balloons on the subway.  Always nice to see New Yorkers excited for love.  We’re not quite as cynical as movies would have you think!

Day 14: Write Love Letters
On a day that celebrates affection, today’s tip for a charmed life suggests you make record of your love in a concrete manner.  Nothing is more romantic, more touching or more timeless than the art of writing love letters.

While momentous when said the first time, it is possible that “I love you” can sometimes become something of an aside, a routine.  When you write down how you feel about someone, it allows you to explain all that your “I love yous” have symbolized: how much you admire them, how much you respect them, how much you desire them.  Things they might have felt (or maybe not!), and things they should be told.

A few guidelines:

  • Love letters don’t need to be novels — if you’re feeling exceptionally stuck, try starting out with short notes.
  • You’ll always get bonus points if you deliver your love letters in an original way — I like tucking them inside the book you’re reading, attaching them to your bath towel so you’ll see it in the morning, or sending them in the mail to your office.
  • Lastly, I will admit that this post was in part inspired by the letters of Clementine and Winston Churchill, but I don’t want you to think that this only can be applied to romantic relationships.  Some of my favorite valentines of all time are those sent to me by my friends and by my parents, in fact — hearing that my friends and family care for me is something I could never tire of!

Taking the time to tell someone how much you love them only opens you up to receive more love.  It is classy, it is fabulous, and it is charming.  Could there be a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

See also: 28 Days of Classy & Fabulous: Be Your Own Valentine (2011)

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

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