Tag Archives: expats

I’m not sure why I started blogging ten years ago today.


The blogging world has changed a great deal since my first post POST.    Back then nobody was making money from blogging.  It was way to communicate, connect, and create.

I rarely read old posts.  Some make me cringe (and not just because of all the typos), others make me thankful I got the heck out Los Angeles, and then there are the posts with the hilarious comments.  The randomness of the posts is bizarre.  One post would be about some serious foreign policy debate and the very next day I would write about an annoying Black Eye Peas song.

At first I used a pseudonym and didn’t tell anyone, outside of close friends, in Hollywood that I had a blog.  Like many other long-time bloggers, I don’t delete old posts…even the embarrassing ones.  These posts are a snapshot of what was going on in the world and/or my life at the time.

There’s much debate about the future of blogs and blogging.  Who knows what will happen. I do know that readers are turned off by constant shilling.

I’m glad I started a blog a decade ago.  Through it I found my voice again and met some great people (several who are close friends to this day).  I wouldn’t have moved to Italy without that blog.  My life would be completely different.

Yes, the title is a question not a statement.  This is a road my entrepreneur/freelancing friends and I are trying to navigate.

I was thinking about this while walking home after meeting up with some girlfriends.


They are a dynamic group of women.

However, one thing I have noticed time and time again (especially when I worked in Hollywood) is that so many of my female friends tend to downplay their success.  They say they’re lucky or get embarrassed when talking about their accomplishments.  Meanwhile, my male friends and colleagues would proudly discuss their success and many would take credit for things they didn’t even do.

Perhaps there is a fine line between bragging and just stating the facts.  What is it?

Is being too humble holding us back?  I’m not saying we need to go to a Trumpian level of bloviating but the constant self-deprecating, aww shucks thing needs to stop.

Even my friends who were born with a sliver platter, hustle.  True, their family’s influence helped them get in the door but they stay in the room because they’re great at what they do.  Luck is only a small part of their success.

Recently, the very talented Felicia Sullivan asked me to be part of a series she’s writing on successful female entrepreneurs.  At first, I wondered why would she want to interview me.  My friend Erica knocked some sense into me and I did the interview.  Then she told me I had to Tweet about it a few times over the next few months. I haven’t. Why not?

The fact that there’s a popular hastag called #humblebrag speaks volumes.  Why be passive aggressive?  A agent friend in Hollywood told me that there’s nothing wrong with with tooting your own horn as long as you also toot the horn of others.  Nobody wants to see or read a feed that is me, me, me, 24/7.

When I think about the self-promotion that turns me off, it’s because the person only talks about themselves. Always.

So I say go ahead and tell the world about the great things you’re doing. How will people know unless you have a publicist? Maybe some people won’t think these things are that great, special, or interesting. That’s okay.  It’s something you’re proud of.

I’m going to work on my own self-deprecating responses.  I now know I won’t succeed if I only dwell on negative things or what I haven’t accomplished yet in my career.  As 2015 draws to a close, I am thinking long and hard regarding how speak about my work and my business.

And yes, I’m going to retweet this interview:

When I first visited Rome in 2008, Arlene took me to the most incredible Italian restaurant–one I would never have found on a map. We were introduced by a woman who was interested in adapting my memoir for film. Although the project fell through, I’m thankful for having met Arlene and for our long-distance friendship since, punctuated by my occasional visits to Italy.

I admire Arlene deeply, embarrassingly so. She left a job, country, and life in pursuit of something other. She wasn’t tethered to age as a means of trapping one in one’s vocation, rather she set out to find her place in the world. Up until a few months ago she was a successful writer/producer and now tell stories in another form: interiors. I love women with verve, women who take risks, break ranks, and live without apology. Arlene is all of these things, but in the end she’s a truth-teller. I only hope to be as successful as I move through my acts. Let her story inspire you. –FS

When I first met you, you’d recently emigrated to Rome from the U.S. Truth be told, I admired you, how brave you were to leave a successful career behind for something other. This was a time before we’d read articles about expats and second acts. Your career has spanned politics, film and entertainment—but tell us how you returned to your first love: decorating. Why did you leave producing behind?

Arlene Gibbs: What timing. Until two months ago, I had two careers going on, screenwriter/producer, and decorator.

When we first met, I was writing full-time and developing a few projects as a producer. Everyone told me it would be impossible to be a screenwriter/producer based in Rome (especially without a trust fund). Even after our movie Jumping The Broom was released, and importantly was a hit, I heard the same thing. Nothing changed. Nobody cared. It was a “niche” film. When I pointed out to a producer friend that there were plenty of successful British screenwriters who worked in Hollywood but lived in London, I was told, “Yes, but they are British, white, and male.”

To your last question, it took me forever to see the light. Earlier this summer, one of my dear friends, who lives in Rome, said that the universe was screaming at me and I was ignoring the signs. This friend is usually not that crunchy. I needed to heed her advice.

Then I read this quote from JJ Martin, an American fashion and design journalist who lives in Milan, and everything clicked.

The best advice I’ve ever received was to look at everything that comes your way as an opportunity. Do not underestimate the power of chance and fate. Do what you love, what opens you up, not what closes you down, and makes you act like an asshole. Be responsible, be loving, be caring. That’s what I advise to anyone starting out. If you truly love fashion, it will come to you.

She’s talking about fashion but it could be applied to any creative endeavor. I wasn’t an asshole when I worked in Hollywood, my former assistants still speak to me, but I was not myself. I became a very bitter person.

I was recently hired for a decorating project in Los Angeles. It was my first trip back since making my big decision. It was a great experience. I returned to Rome feeling positive instead of depressed.

The rest of the interview is HERE.

Thanks again, Felicia!






First, I’ve just returned to Rome from a business trip to the States and the Caribbean.  Below are some random observations:

Los Angeles traffic continues to get worse. How is this possible.

Target is great.

J.Crew.  What is happening? I’ve been a fan since the 80s. Something is amiss.

Why is Ben and Jennifer’s former nanny in the press so much? What is her end game? Reality show?

Speaking of reality shows, what the heck is Hollywood Cycle?

Ina Garten.  Adore.

Guy Fieri. Why so many shows, Food Network? Why?!

My friend Erica posted this TIME magazine article that said Americans dressing like slobs equals freedom.  Perhaps I have lived in Italy too long or I am turning into my Caribbean parents because I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.  Freedom? From what? The tyranny of Dior?

The GOP debate. Fascinating.  Trump was peak Trump.

The flight attendants on Air France were very friendly and cheerful.  It’s a long flight from St. Martin to Paris (8.5 hours).  Meanwhile, the American Airline attendants on the Miami to St. Martin flight (only three hours) not so much.  Why?

Portions in America are too big.  I couldn’t finish a single meal.

The newish Restoration Hardware showroom in West Hollywood is odd. I don’t get it.  Is it just for the trade? Who thought it was a good idea to have a 40,000 sq ft store where you have to buy everything online or from the catalog? The scale is huge. How can any shopper, who doesn’t live in a castle, envision that massive furniture in their home?

It would never occur to me to combine these two things:


Second, in the past I have written about my Ferragosto issues.  Despite living in Italy for seven years, I was very American when it come to vacations and/or taking a break from work.

I said, “was” not “am.”  Finally, this year I get it.  I cannot wait for August 15th.  Truly.

My trip was intense.  I recently signed a Los Angeles based client and flew to Los Angeles direct from Rome. I have NEVER in my life been so happy to sit in a freezing cold plane for a thirteen-hour flight.  The six week heatwave in Rome was warping my brain. There were rumblings about Alitalia striking that weekend.  Thankfully, they didn’t and I got an upgrade to Business Class.  Nice.

That upgrade made a huge difference.  I had horrible jet leg during my trip to Los Angeles back in May.  This time it was much better.  I think it also helped that I walked to the Century City Mall shortly after arriving and stayed up until 10.30 p.m.

While I was running around Los Angeles with my client, I had deliveries and construction happening in Rome for another client.  Given the nine hour time difference, things were a little hectic.  I was only in Los Angeles for a few days and on my client’s schedule so I didn’t see many friends or “do meetings”.

Then I fly to Miami.  It was my first trip to the city.  I need to return and see more of it.  I really liked the vibe. I stayed at the Viceroy which was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the design district is shrinking after LVHM bought out several blocks.  It was still a productive trip. I sourced some great items for my Anguilla project.

From Miami I flew to St. Martin.  I said hello to my parents, and the next day took the ferry to Anguilla.

After all the flying, unpacking, repacking, shopping, meeting with contractors, painters, carpenters, project managers, receiving texts from clients in Rome about things we need to do ASAP, etc. etc., I hit the wall on Saturday.

While packing (again) I watch Flipping Out.  Can we talk about this show?  I have so many questions.  I wish Bravo aired in Italy.

I’m not complaining but a very strange thing happened during this trip.  I do not feel guilty about looking forward to August 15th. Not one bit.

Of course I’m not going completely cold turkey. There are quite a few back office things I need take care of during the break and meetings I must attend.

I bought a stack of shelter magazines in the States and the book The Bee Cottage Story.  I’m going to cut way back from the Internet and chill. I know September is going to be off the charts busy.  Everyone returns to town and I’m looking for a new apartment.  The latter will be an interesting process.

I may not be able to Dolce Far Niente for two weeks but can try for at least two days.  To prepare I need to put together a killer playlist which will include one of my favorite summer jams from August 1990.

Buon Ferragosto!

Of course there was drama.

My friend Marta and I decided to get the heck out of dodge as this heatwave is one of the worst on record.  There are no signs of relief.  I understand week or so with these kind of temperatures.  It is, after all, July in Rome.  However, an entire month of highs in the 90s and low 100s is not a good thing.

Did I mention that I don’t have air conditioning? I cannot keep my windows open at night as my pretty side street is filled with demonstrative high school Italian students, and drunk American exchange students until dawn.

I’m waking up at 4:00 a.m. as it’s impossible to sleep.  One of my clients is started a major construction project this week so I cannot work remotely in the mountains or at the beach as some friends have suggested.

All this to say Marta and I were READY to get out of here on Saturday but alas, Trenitalia had other plans for us.

It was one of those classic only in Italy moments.  The train was on time but then got stuck on the track just a few yards away from Termini Station.  There was something wrong with the current.  We couldn’t get off the train as we were on the tracks.  There was no place to safely walk.  They worked on the train and tracks for TWO hours.  Mind you, the train ride to Fondi is an hour or so.

At last, the train returns to the station and that’s when all hell broke loose.  Folks were not happy.  One woman was going off on the police.  I thought if she were in the States they probably would’ve tased her, then arrested her.

It’s funny, when we on the train things were pretty calm.  While there was some muttering, “ma che cazzo sta dicendo” (but, what the fuck is he saying?) when the conductor walked through our car to give us updates, people kept reading or chatting with their friends instead of complaining.

They did have another train waiting for us, on a different track, right away.  Trenitalia employees handed out bottles of water, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finally, we were on our way.  Instead of waiting for the bus (at this point we were starving) we hopped into a taxi mini-van with several other women who were going to Sperlonga.  They had been on the same train as us. When we saw the beach, they started clapping.  We kept cracking up because the driver was having a super animated conversation.

In a bizarre way the timing worked out better for us.  We arrived in time for lunch.  The restaurant, Scylla, was on the north side of the Historic Center and we wanted to be on the south side beach.  To climb back and forth wouldn’t have made sense.  So we sat down, had a lovely lunch, and then braved the sun to walk up and over to the other side.

Everyone was snapping photos of this sign.


I forgot all about the start to our day once we arrived.


Still thinking about this dish.


Sperlonga is a Blue Flag beach between Rome and Naples.


Starting our climb back up to the Historic Center.  I have written about Tiberius’s ruins HERE. It’s a great day trip from Rome.


A quick aperitivi in the main piazza before returning to Rome.  I didn’t want to leave the fresh air and cool breeze.


Fantastic signage.


The view from the bus stop.


I cannot believe it’s Christmas 2014 already. Where did this year go?

In a sea filled with awful news (I really need to ease up on how much I watch and read everyday), it’s good to be reminded of joyous things.

Last Friday my friend, Gina, invited me to meet her, Rachel, and Elizabeth at their friend Alice’s holiday pop-up bakery.  Alice Is a food stylist and cook.  Her gingerbread cookies were delicious.  I wonder if it’s possible to order some during the off season.  I must investigate.

I loved the simple decorations, the Prosecco, and most importantly, sharing them with friends old and new.



It’s not easy to be far away from my family during the holidays, but I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible group of friends.

Merry Christmas!!


Many people back in the States have asked me what I’m doing on Thursday.

I’m working.  Thanksgiving is an American holiday.

If I had an oven/kitchen/apartment bigger than a shoebox, I would host a Thanksgiving dinner but on Saturday (which is what the majority of expats do here).

My future apartment will have more space and I will entertain more.

In the meantime, I can admire these lovely plates that would be perfect for my Thanksgiving dinners.

For an informal table:

The Marbury Dinnerware Collection from Crate and Barrel.  You can put a charger underneath with more color or a pattern.


The Charlotte Street Collection from Kate Spade.  I had to have at least one white plate with blue trim.



The Eclectique Dinner plate from Williams-Sonoma.   It’s a pretty dish made in France.



For a more formal table:

The Renaissance Collection by Wedgewood.    A classic.


Anmut Platinum by Villeroy & Boch.   One word… elegant.



The American Dinner plate by Hermès.    The blues are gorgeous.


Hmmm, not seeing a lot of variety here.

I do appreciate china with flowers but for my table I tend to keep it simple because my floral arrangements are colorful.  Also, I like to mix and match my dinnerware.  Having plates in a similar color palette makes the table more cohesive.

For those who are celebrating, I hope you have a fantastic and Happy Thanksgiving.







I wish I knew I how to do this.

Trust me, this is not a humblebrag.  You know when you ask someone how they’re doing and they reply, “BUSY!”?  Then they proceed to talk for twenty minutes about how busy they are?

I used to do the BUSY thing all the time when I lived in Los Angeles.  I broke out of that habit after living here a few years.  When Italians ask, “how are you?”, they really want to know.  It’s a conversation starter, not an opportunity to brag about how much work you do.  Nobody wants to hear that mess unless you are at a work conference or something.

While I have calmed down a bit since my big move, I still find myself feeling guilty for not working all the time.  I know there are people who never stop.  I did that during my Hollywood years but had nothing to show for it other than missed weddings back east, stress, and debt.

So I know I wasn’t healthy or happy during that time yet August in Rome continues to freak me out.  This week my vendors are closing up for the summer.  There is nothing I can do regarding deliveries, invoices, my projects, etc.

Last year when I went to Salina, I had a view like this,


but I was constantly checking my emails and on the phone with my clients. However, that was in June.  August is another story.

In August I’m forced to slow down so why can’t I just chill the heck out without feeling guilty about it?  One of my favorite designers, Erin Gates of ELEMENTS OF STYLE, wrote a fantastic POST about the pressure we Americans put on ourselves to do it all.

It’s madness.  I told myself that this year would be different.   It’s not.  It’s only the 6th and instead of reveling in the summer, I want September to get here already.

My local caffe and many of my favorite restaurants are shutting down this week.  Only the places catering to tourists will be opened.  Most of my friends are gone and the rest are leaving next week.  Tumbleweeds will roll down Lungotevere.

I should try to follow my dad’s example.  He was an incredibly hard worker but he also knew how to relax.  He truly appreciated the little vacation and down time he had.  My mom also worked hard but NEVER relaxed.  Even on her days off from work she was going, going, going.  I used to think I was a combination of the two but no, I’m more like my mom.  There’s always something that must be done.

I have my own company.  You’d think I would be able to give myself a break and/or vacation.  No, instead I think if don’t burn the candle at both ends I won’t be able to succeed, which means I won’t be able to pay my rent, therefore I will end up living under the Ponte Sisto bridge.

Okay, this summer I am going to break the cycle, dammit!  I must do it for my mental, physical, and creative health.

We’ll see how the rest of the year shapes up as I start my quest to partake in the fine Italian tradition of Dolce Far Niente.

Any suggestions?








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