What I learned from a tour guide, a chef, and Michelangelo…

What I learned from a tour guide, a chef, and Michelangelo…

What I learned from a tour guide, Chef and Michelangelo


I went to Italy on a 10-day trip to Tuscany and Rome a couple of weeks ago.  It was my immediate family and our significant others. We went to Tuscany for 8 days and then ended the trip in Rome.  We stayed in a beautiful villa in Panzano, Tuscany and took small day trips to the local towns and then some of the bigger cities like Florence, Luca, and Cinque Terre.  We had a private tour guide who was local to the area and brought us around. We had a chef who came and taught us to cook homemade pasta and pizza, and then we have another tour guide bring us all through Florence to point out and teach us about the art and history of the city.

It truly was the trip of a lifetime.  We had such a blast drinking wine, eating unlimited bread cheese and pasta and just being together.  But the icing on the cake was really learning about and getting to know some of the locals. Our tour guides and chef were so gracious, all with huge smiles and a deep appreciation for their country and its history.  They all lived very different lives, but they all taught me something that I didn’t think I would find in the classic Italian laid back culture.  


They all taught me that they are all incredibly hard workers, you can reinvent yourself many times in your life, and don’t rush the process.


Italy is known for its laid-back culture, focused around food family and an appreciation for the things that are all around them.  Going into the trip I was expecting only this type of lifestyle and I absolutely saw this, but once I really learned more about our tour guide, chef and the life of Michelangelo, I realized there was so much more to the people than that.  

Like any good book, or an onion, when you dig deeper in and peel back the layers, there is always more than what meets the eye, and I absolutely found that here in Italy, in its people.  

Now, my opinion and experience could have been completely different if I got to know a different set of people, but they are the ones that I met and what I learned from them really stuck. 


Let’s start by giving a quick back story on each of them:IMG_8579

 Our tour guide who was with us for 3 days bringing us to all the local cities, was actually from Germany.  She moved to Italy after “Hotel School” and worked in a hotel to “practice her Italian” and she never looked back.  She met her husband who was a chef, then they opened a restaurant in a small local town that became a Michelin Star restaurant.  They had two kids and the restaurant became too much, so then she became a tour guide and started bringing people all over the local Tuscan Chianti Classico region. 

IMG_9265Our chef went to school to be an English teacher and then moved to London to find work.  The first job he found was a cook in a big fancy hotel. He always loved cooking so he took the role, and then stayed there for 15 years.  During that time he met his wife who was also Italian, and they moved home to Italy to have their family. In Italy, he started a huge restaurant that had over 30 tables in it.  He ran that for years and then also decided to back off a bit and slow down. Today, he owns a wine bar in the center of a small town and teaches cooking lessons to tourists who rent in the area. 

Then there was Michelangelo.  He is not alive, so I didn’t personally meet him but I 3DCA8181-7C8C-4288-A105-E7BCC9DFAE9Dwas blown away by his story and the impact that he made in not only Florence but the world of art.  Michelangelo was the greatest of the Italian Renaissance artists. He was born in a small village and then grew up in Florence. By the age of 13, he was an artist’s apprentice and creating work that we still are paying to see today.  He also became a sculptor and later in his life he got into architecture. In his lifetime he was commissioned to do many pieces of artwork for churches and wealthy families. A few of his greatest pieces of artwork include the statue of  David, the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Pieta, and the Last Judgement which is also in the Sistine Chapel. These are just a few of the many pieces of artwork he created in his lifetime. All of which crowds gather around to this day to get a glimpse of the masterful work he has done. 


Clearly, these three individuals are all VERY different.  Not even remotely similar, but there are parts of their story, characteristics they all have that are all the same. That’s what I wanted to talk about today.


They are all incredibly hard workers.  You don’t just casually open up a Michelin Star restaurant, slave in a restaurant of a famous hotel, or paint a 40.9-meter ceiling in the Sistine Chapel without working hard.  The Sistine Chapel took Michelangelo 4 years to paint, and it took our chef 15 years of experience working in a high-end restaurant until he had the skills and knowledge to open up his own.  That is HARD freaking work, and you have to work even harder to do it and then become the best at it.  The culture may be known as laid back, but it doesn’t mean that the people within it aren’t working their butts off to achieve their dreams. 


They all ALSO reinvented themselves many times in their lives.  They didn’t have one path or do one thing for their entire life.  In the U.S. it seems as everyone is on a path. They go to work and then work their way up one path, without much variance.  It’s just what you do, and if you don’t do that and you try something different or new people question you, it’s like taboo. They don’t understand.  With these three individuals that were completely the opposite. Michelangelo started off as a painter, then became a sculptor and then an architect… AND he was renowned in his work in each of those areas.  Granted he was known as a genius in what he did, but he still did it!  So many people who are geniuses or have lots of talent don’t even try to do something like that.  

Then there was our tour guide who ran a hotel, then a restaurant and now it is a travel guide.  She doesn’t quite measure up to Michelangelo’s level but she still reinvented herself time and time again and found success with each new turn.  That still takes guts and work and is incredibly impressive that she found success over and over in completely different fields.

I think that was one of the greatest lessons I learned, that all of us could learn.  Just because you are doing something today, or you are on this path, it doesn’t mean you are stuck there. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make a change and reinvent yourself and still be successful.  You CAN reinvent yourself, you CAN do something differently, you CAN follow your dream and have your cake and eat it too. 


Then finally, none of them seemed to rush the process.  Now I must reiterate, I did not meet Michaelangelo so he could have been a crazy man speeding through every project he had to finish.  But in the attention of detail in his work and the quality of what he created, I just can’t believe that was the case.  

The two people I did meet, our tour guide and the chef did not rush the process.  The chef took his time and learned all that he could in the restaurant business before starting his own.  Then when that became too much he downsized and opened a wine bar that became the top bar in the town we stayed.  He was never in a rush to get somewhere or to the next thing or goal, and he still got there successfully. Even when he was teaching us how to make pasta and bread, there wasn’t really a sense of urgency to get it done, but he carefully went through the process of showing us step by step with no impatience in between. 

This was another huge lesson to me because I am super type A and don’t do anything slowly.  I walk fast, talk fast, everything. I am also always eager to hit the next goal and do the next thing so I am always looking for ways to hurry up the process to get there faster.  Understanding and seeing that things not only take time, but you will still get there, in the end, was almost a relief for me.  It showed me that it is okay to give yourself space and time to slow down and fully be in the process of working through it one day at a time. 


So there you have what I learned about the Italian lifestyle from a chef, tour guide and Michelangelo!


You meet so many different people when you travel and learn about the history and what made the people and the country who they are today.  But how much of that are you fully absorbing and analyzing, making comparisons and contrasts to how you live your own life?  I think making mental notes of reflection makes it all the more interesting. With that, I would like to challenge you, the next time you go away to ask yourself, What did you find to be different? What do you notice? What will you learn?


Until next time, ciao! 

Love, Emily 

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures

If you follow me on social media, you would know that Trader Joe’s is totally my jam.  For those of you who are not familiar, Trader Joe’s is a neighborhood grocery store. That’s where I do all of my grocery shopping every week and I freaking love it. I am lucky enough to have one in two of the neighboring towns and I take FULL advantage of it.


It’s my favorite place ever because it’s so fun inside, they always have tons of beautiful flowers, your typical grocery store staples, AND “fun” food.  Fun food is something I totally made up, but it will make sense soon.


My definition of fun food is healthy food that has a fun twist!  For example chips, queso, pizza, and candy are all junk food.  They are fun to eat but they are junk and do nothing for us. Trader Joe’s has created different “fun” food that is similar to junk food except that it is actually good for you and you don’t have to feel bad after you eat it!


I am always on the hunt for the next fun food that I will find at Trader Joe’s, there is ALWAYS something new.  It makes shopping there even more enjoyable because it’s like you are on a treasure hunt every time you’re there, trying to find your next piece of gold.  


The best part is that the fun food they have is not only good for you, it actually tastes good too.  In life, I am generally always on the hunt for the “fun” food and am more than often disappointed. The “fun” food I find typically tastes terrible or they put a million bad ingredients and chemicals into it making it not even worth trying.  For the most part, that doesn’t happen at Trader Joe’s. The food there is fun and different tastes great and is good for you.


Today I wanted to share with you my Top 10 Trader Joe Treasures.  These are ten of the gems that I have found during my shopping escapades at Traders that I truly can’t get enough of and I need the whole world to know my love for them!!


So here they are…


1.Red Lentil Pasta  

  • Before I found this pasta, I pretty much swore off pasta at that point in my life.  It’s red-lentils-pasta.jpgsad and my Italian grandma is probably rolling in her grave right now, but it’s true.  I try to eat very little to no gluten products, and normal pasta and even wheat pasta just didn’t give me the return I wanted after eating it.  Yes, I am thinking of the ROI I get from what I eat, I take my health very seriously. So when I found this pasta and saw that its only ingredients were red lentils and water, I had tears of joy in my eyes which was immediately followed by a happy dance in the middle of the aisle. Because….. PASTA!!!! I COULD EAT IT AGAIN and NOT feel guilty!!! Best.Find.Ever.
  • I now buy 1 or 2 bags every single week. #sickomode


  1. Cauliflower Pizza Crust
  • This find was another game changer for me.  Pizza was another food that I just didn’t eat anymore.  I love pizza with my whole heart and soul, but I don’t love how it makes me feel after.  I have tried gluten free crust but very few places make a cauliflower-pizza.jpggood one, so I just didn’t eat it.  Or I should say I drastically cut down how often and how much I ate it. I can still remember the day I found their Cauliflower pizza crust.  I read the ingredients and it wasn’t perfect but still pretty freaking good.  Then, I looked around me to see who was looking, like a total sketchy criminal, and then I quickly put three crusts into my carriage and then abruptly walked away.  I truly felt like I was stealing because I couldn’t believe that it existed and I couldn’t get my hands on enough of them.
  • This is now a weekly purchase, and what my sister and I base our Friday nights around. Pizza Friday is back.


  1.   Almond Cheese
  • I can’t talk about pasta and pizza without cheese.  Over the past two years, I have come to the sad, sad realization that I can’t eat cheese or really any dairy products. almond cheese Two years ago I like suddenly realized I had as much acene as a high schooler and wanted to clear up my face for my wedding.  My sister read an article about the correlation between dairy and breakouts, so I tried to cut it out to see if it would help and it did, drastically.  Since then I really haven’t eaten much dairy, which is the most depressing thing ever, especially when making pizza. I have tried vegan cheeses and other weird stuff I have found and it tasted like garbage.  Then, I found the almond cheese and felt like my prayers were answered! Now I must preface that’s still not normal cheese, it doesn’t get gooey and oily deliciousness but it does melt, taste goods and is perfect for pizza.
  • This is also a weekly purchase for me.


  1. Cauliflower Gnocchi
  • This was another fun find because it’s also in the pasta group and gnocchi was another delicious pasta that I wasn’t eating.  I was super skeptical when I first cauliflowe gnocchifound this one because I just didn’t understand how they could make gnocchi out of cauliflower, granted there is flour in this find, but I still couldn’t wrap my head around it so I totally thought it would taste terrible.  I bought it regardless but held off trying it. When I finally did I was kicking myself for waiting so long. It tastes GREAT! You just need to make sure that you follow the instructions on how to cook the gnocchi because you saute it frozen which is much different than normal gnocchi. Besides that, it tastes amazing with sauteed onions and mushrooms.
  • This one is perfect for a dinner date night at home. =] I always have a bag in my freezer but save it for special occasions.


  1. Eggplant Garlic Dip and Red Pepper Dips
  • Growing up, Happy Hours on Friday’s were a religious ritual.  My aunts and my mom would sit at the counter talk about the week while eating appetizer/picky pepper dipfoods and drinking wine. It’s my most favorite memory growing up.  Because of that tradition, anytime I see friends we ALWAYS do some kind of happy hour spread. Sometimes it’s a pathetic attempt, and other times we get fancy. Trader Joe’s Eggplant and Red Pepper Dip is perfect for both types of Happy Hour!  To start it is FREAKING DELICIOUS and you can eat it with crackers and cheese or, cut up bell peppers or cucumbers to dip into it. One time I even put it on a sandwich as like a condiment spread, and my goodness that was delicious.
  • I don’t buy this every week, but I almost always buy it if I am going to or hosting a happy hour.


  1. Almond Jalapeno Lime Dip/Spread
  • Since we are on the topic of dips and spreads I can’t NOT talk about my most recent find that I can’t get enough of… THE Almond Lime Jalapeno dip.  As I mentioned, I almond dipam always on the lookout for fun foods at Traders and was near the hummus section hoping that I would find some kind of non-hummus hummus dip.  I knew there were edamame dips and other bean dips in the world so I wanted to see if they had anything similar there. I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for but I was NOT disappointed.  This dip is like the combination of hummus flavored jalapeno dip with the consistency of the alloete brand cheese. I can’t get enough of it right now. I haven’t played around with the different ways to eat it yet, but for now, I am FULLY satisfied just eating it on a cracker.  I have done that every day since I have bought it.
  • This will be a staple in my home.


  1. Date Bites
  • I am a total sucker for Lara Bars and dried fruit.  These date bites are like mini Lara date and nut bitesbars. They are individually wrapped in little small squares and are a perfect snack before a workout class or if you need a little something to hold you over until your next meal.   I used to make these protein ball things that I would eat before a workout, but when I found these they were essentially the same thing and lasted longer and I’ve been completely addicted since! They come in three different flavors and I have tried and like them all. My favorite is the citrus flavored one.
  • This is a staple that is ALWAYS in my home, that I eat before every morning workout class.


  1. Oat Bran Vegan Blueberry Muffins
  • Now I am not much of a baked good person.  I pretty much never ever buy them but that’s mostly because I love them so much I won’t be able to stop myself from oat-bran-muffins.jpgeating all of it.  Growing up my mom would always buy my dad muffins from Stop n Shop as a Saturday morning treat. She would always buy bran muffins because that was his favorite and because they were always around we also ended up loving bran muffins.  So one day when I was on my treasure hunt in Trader Joes I found these Vegan Blueberry Oat Bran Muffins. My first thought was, “no way these actually taste good, that would be too good to be true”.  I bought them anyway because I had friends staying over that night and my GOODNESS they were amazing.  These muffins are nice and dense and have the perfect berry ratio.
  • This would not be an every week purchase for me, but definitely, a once in a while treat.


9.Chocolate Coconut Almonds

  • I couldn’t write this blog without slipping in at least ONE chocolate treat. =]  If you chocolate coconut almondshave been to Trader Joe’s you will know that they have an incredibly tempting sweet’s and treats section.  I have also purchased a number of those “just to try” and then accidentally ate the whole thing in a weekend, so I try to steer clear.  But when I do splurge, I get the Chocolate Coconut covered almonds. They taste like a mini Girl Scout Samoa Cookie, and they are completely addicting.
  • As long as you like coconut you absolutely need to try these the next time you go.


  1. Everything but the Bagel Seasoning
  • This isn’t necessarily a food, but I promise you this seasoning makes everything IMG_7302taste better.  I have friends that actually have this in their purse at all times, just in case there is an opportunity to use it, and I totally get it!  It literally makes anything you eat taste like an Everything Bagel, and I don’t know anyone who DOESN’T love an everything bagel. Throw it on roasted veggies, chicken or steak, avocado toast, eggs, the options are endless.  
  • When it comes to cooking healthy, half the battle is trying to make regular bland vegetables taste delicious.  This seasoning is a solution to that. Because of that, I have this seasoning with me at all times, one in my house and one at my desk at work.


Bonus Buy: The Flowers

  • Walking into Trader Joe’s you are always immediately greeted by their beautiful display of flowers.  There is no better welcome. Trader always has flower arrangements and different flowers for each season.  Some you can even mix and match to get Pinterest worthy bouquets.flowers.jpg 
  • I always buy flowers because they make me really really happy.  To me, they are like a ray of sunshine in my home.
  • Besides the fact that I just love them, one of the main reasons I love buying flowers from Trader Joe’s specifically is because they are so affordable, have a great selection and once they can no longer sell them, they donate them locally to different hospitals and senior centers.  
    • One of the workers at Trader’s told me that they always donate everything that they can’t sell while most grocery stores just throw them out.  If that doesn’t melt your heart and make you believe that Trader Joe’s is the best place around, I don’t know what will.


So there you have it!  My Top 10 Trader Joe’s Treasures and my Bonus Buy.  Next time you go to Trader Joe’s try to have a little fun with it.  Take your time and look around to see what treasures you can find. 😉

Until next time, happy treasure hunting!

P.s. Keep your eyes out for some fun recipes I have made from these fun foods!

A little Thank You goes a long way

A little Thank You goes a long way

Since I have been recruiting for some time now there are a couple tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way.  Tips for candidates on how to tighten up their interview process to help land their dream job, and suggestions for hiring managers on how to improve their interviewing process for today’s market.  Since I am talking to people all day everyday, I have heard a lot from both sides and wanted to share some of this insight with you to help you either land the job or hire great people.

Today’s focus is a topic I have been hearing about a lot lately from hiring managers, and have had to remind candidates of…

A little Thank You goes a long way.

What’s one of the first lessons we are taught when we are kids growing up?  I can hear myself repeating it to my parents now in a sing song voice now, “Always say please and thank you”, and god forbid you forget it!  Even if I was slightly delayed in saying please or thank you my parents would give me the immediate reminder, “Now what do you say?”, “Thannnnk Yooouu”. Continue reading “A little Thank You goes a long way”