Ciao Bella Firenze!

JD and I have always wanted to go to Europe. We debated several countries for our first trip across the pond, mainly Ireland, Scotland, UK, and Italy. Then when we sat down and thought about what we wanted to do over there the conversation went a little like this…”We want to see really cool stuff, eat really good food, and drink really good wine!” Yeah… we’re pretty simply people, but doesn’t that just scream Italy? We thought so. So, thanks to Crossroads Travel and our dear travel agent, Doug, we planned the trip of a lifetime to Florence and Rome, Italy and spent 4 days in each city. Although Rome was amazing, there was just something about Florence that I fell in love with! The culture, the art, the history, the people and of course the food & wine.. everything was just amazing.

OK – I could go on for hours but since pictures say 1,000 words and I took a boat load of them, I’m going to let them tell most of the story.

One of the first things we did when we arrived in Florence was a walking tour of the city. This was so helpful for us as we were able to get our bearings, learn about the city and dogear must-return spots. Our guide for this tour was full of cool city facts..although his English was a little broken and I only picked up about 60% of what he said. Here’s what I did pick up…

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore absolutely floors you. You honestly walk around the corner and it just hits you with it’s size, beauty and amazing details. We didn’t go inside, since our guide said it’s surprising bare but I’m sorry this picture can’t do it’s size and beauty justice.

Directly across from the Basilica is the Baptistery, which features a bronze door with the most amazing sculpted panels depicting biblical stories. Directly above the doors, are sculptures of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, which was by far my favorite piece of art we saw on the trip! I have to admit that I cried a little when I first saw this, but I think that’s what good art is suppose to do to you right?

At first glance, I wasn’t very impressed with this building, The Basilica di San Lorenzo, but when our guide told us it was built in 393 AD, I immediately changed my mind. It’s also the burial place of most of the Medici Family, which if you know anything about Florence, know they were the cool kids on the block for many many years. We walked inside but as soon as someone told us we couldn’t talk – we were done. Same reason I refuse to try Bikram yoga… I like talking :)

Then we saw the David. Ok, Ok…. yes, this is the fake David and no we didn’t see the real one. I was totally fine with this decision until we met this awesome couple on the train who told us that the real one is completely different. Oh well, you see one naked dude, you’ve seen them all right…?

Ahh… the Arno River. We walked across two bridges, but this one was by far the prettiest. Might of had something to do with the fact that all of the shops on the bridge are jewelry shops… :) My kind of bridge.

So I didn’t take a picture of everything we ate, but I did get a couple of the good stuff. From the very first bite to the last, I was so very impressed with the food. The fresh pasta, bread, tomatoes and olive oil were just delicious. Here are some of my favorites…

Caprese – sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil

Pasta and pizza with fresh tomato sauce. It’s not as saucy as it is in the US, but much better!

Panini with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.

More pizza, but my favorite while in Italy. Le Campane, Ristorante Pizzeria also had the best bruschetta in Florence. This place was out of the main tourist area, so JD and I totally felt like locals. Scratch that… I felt like a local. JD is blonde and was kind of blowing my cover :)

More spaghetti, but just look at that parmesan cheese!

Our favorite meal in Florence was at L’Osteria di Giovanni. We took a gamble and showed up at 7:30 without reservations and luckily they had one spot left. The waiter asked us to follow him down these creepy steps for the non-reservation spots and although a little hesitant we did it. To our surprise we got to sit in the wine cellar, surrounded by dusty wine bottles and century old bricks. It was perfect!

We started with a delicious cheese ravioli in a zucchini sauce…

Next was the sea bass. We completely forgot fish is served whole in Italy and to our surprise we got an entire sea bass… eyeballs and all. Luckily, our super sweet waiter cleaned him up.

We ended with desert, but since I already look like a fat kid, I’ll let you envision it. This is my way of saying delicious, since I only learned 3 words while over there and they all had something to do with wine and tomatoes… :)

So I’ve shared my favorite art, my favorite food, and here’s my favorite tour. On Friday, we took an entire day tour of Cinque Terre, on the coast on the Italian Riviera. Although our ferry stopped at all five villages, we only explored #1, #3 and #5. All of the villages, featured beautiful views and these super colorful buildings.

At the first village, we spent most of our time exploring the castle.

How’s this for a window seat? This was actually a window in the castle…

Look at that brave stud muffin. Notice the aviators, which equals cool Italian.

I followed him just so I could put my foot in the sea. It was very very cold!

Village #2 was beautiful but very small and simple.

Except for one thing… the Gelato!

Best ice cream ever. Yes… it’s blackberry!

JD seemed to think so too :)

The last village had the best beaches!

JD took a swim in the ice cold water and I took a nap on the cozy warm beach

On our last day in Florence, we took a hike up to the most scenic spot in the city, Piazzale Michelangelo.

No, we’re not standing in front of a painting.

Another awesome thing about Florence was the open markets, that sell just about anything! So, on our last day in Florence, we both picked up a little something to remember this amazing city. JD got a leather wallet, since leather is something Italy is famous for.

And I got a blue quartz ring that was made in Florence.

Our Italy vacation was simply amazing. Although Florence was my favorite city, we also made some really awesome memories in Rome. Check back for the Rome post soon!


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Super Simple Kitchen Chalkboard

The past two weeks have been crazzzzzy town, so I apologize for being a blog slacker. Thank you to those who check in regularly and feel free to remind me that I’ve been slacker-slackystine in the comments. I’ve been working insane hours but on a badass campaign, so I really can’t complain too much. On top of that, we leave for our Italy vacation on Tuesday, so prepare to hear crickets for another two weeks. Although I’m turning my Blackberry O, F, F, I am taking my iPad, so I’ll try to provide a few updates along the trip. 4 days in Florence and 4 days in Rome. ekkkkk! This is our first trip to Europe so I have no idea what to expect. I just know there are several bottles of red wine with my name on em’.

So not only have I been a blog slacker recently, I’ve also been a life/wife/friend slacker. Call me old school, but something I really look forward to every day is sitting down, eating dinner and talking about my day with JD. For 20 minutes, the TV is off, computers are shut, Blackberries are flipped over (so they can’t flash that annoying “look at me!!!” red light) and iPad’s are sleeping. It’s just us… and Bo bugging us for scraps of course. However, with crazy schedules this lovely little timeout sometimes falls through the cracks and before we know it, we’re eating fast food and cereal on the sofa.

Since I’m a die hard list maker (I honestly have a “Life To Do” list), I decided to make a dinner menu list and hang it in the kitchen to keep us on schedule. Since our countertops are black, I thought a chalkboard would look really cool and be super simple to make and update. I was right. I simply took a piece of wood (pretty sure this came from the TV stand turned bench) and spray painted it with chalkboard spray paint. So without further ado, here’s the super simple chalkboard dinner menu…

Chalkboard Menu

We’re in week 2 of this experiment and it’s working brilliantly! As you can see, this week’s menu is so simple, to ensure we stay on track. I definitely recommend making your list obtainable, or it will probably become just a cool chalkboard in your kitchen.

Speaking of cool chalkboards, check these out. The entire wall in this kitchen was turned into a chalkboard and I absolutely LOVE IT. I’m on day 2 of convincing JD that we need this. He’s not quite sold yet. How does that saying go again, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for…?” :)

DIY 2011 Blog Cabin Kitchen

With our kitchen layout, the chalkboard wall would actually look more like this…

Kitchen Chalkboard Wall

What do you guys think… are chalkboard walls just a trend or timeless? Drop me a line in the comments please :)

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Thanks Dunphy's!

I love shopping online. I could stop this post now and be satisfied. Yep… that’s how much I love browsing online stores, finding something I love and clicking that beautiful little purchase button. All from the comfort of The Bumpass I’m able to skip the lines, the not-available-in-my-size disappointment and the dreaded 30 minute drive to the nearest store (don’t worry… I’m not going to start complaining). Although I know the FedEx guy has to hate my guts (because I’m always his last stop and probably the only reason he has to drive to BFE) I hope I’m able to brighten his day a little when I meet him at the door with my “gimme-gimme-gimme” smile. You should’ve seen me the day he brought me my sewing machine, I almost hugged him… but since I want him to come back and not dodge “the creepy girl’s” house, I decided against it.

Anywho, you can image my excitement when I came home the other day to my Pottery Barn duvet cover and shams beautifully displayed on my front porch steps. You must be thinking “Dang… her Fedex guy rocks! Well he does, but I’m totally kidding. How awesome/creepy would it be though if this is what we came home to instead of a boring white box? I think I’m on to something here…

Pottery Barn Painterly Paisley Duvet Cover Porcelain Blue

Does this duvet cover look familiar? Here’s a hint: it’s typically seen in another modern family’s home… got it yet? It’s the same duvet cover that Claire and Phil Dunphy have on Modern Family! Believe it or not, when I first saw it, I paused the TV and said “LOVVVE! I bet that’s Pottery Barn!” And to my surprise it was! So I immediately signed up for Pottery Barn’s promotional emails and waited for a sale to pop up. As every good shopper knows, good things come to those who wait and I was able to get this bad boy 15% off!

Pottery Barn Modern Family

A little over a year ago I painted our bedroom “Tide Pools” by Behr. It’s the most soothing green/blue/light teal ever BUT I’ve had the hardest time finding a duvet cover to coordinate.. until now! This duvet cover was made for these walls – honestly, I don’t think I could have picked a better match. Thanks for looking out, PB!

This is my second Pottery Barn duvet cover and I have to tell you folks… they don’t disappoint. I fully anticipate having this sucker for many years to come!

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Shakin' Up

What a flippin week, man. I’m starting to think mother nature is seriously pissed at a sister. I know that we suck for not always recycling, buying old crap with lead paint on it, and never carpooling but does our punishment have to be an earthquake and hurricane in the same week?

Since Tuesday’s quake we’ve felt 3 aftershocks in Bumpass (~10 miles from epicenter in Mineral). The worst was definitely Tuesday’s – there is something about waking up in a dark room with your whole house shaking that just scares the crap out of you. Also, what’s up with this happening in Mineral? Riddle me that Batman. Louisa has never been the center of anything and now it’s mentioned on the front page of the NY times. Yessss, we’ve made it! I wonder if our house value has gone up any? haha doubtful.

So all complaining aside, we’re so very blessed that we only lost a TV and perfect picture placement. JC was totally looking out for us!

RIP TV. Half our fault for not bolting you down. Half quakes fault for shaking you up.
Mineral, VA earthquake

So weird how far this picture moved!
Mineral, VA earthquake

Bo is traumatized for life. I can’t get him to stop eating grass now… he’s throwing in the towel.

It may take…ummm 2 seconds, but we will rebuild :)

How about you…any earthquake damage to share?

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