things i love right now…

So, life has gotten away from me and I’ve not had a chance to update this blog in a while…what else is new, right?

We’ve been busy working on our house (again, what else is new?) and juggling summer activities. Michael finally installed BEAUTIFUL hardwoods in our dining room and we’ve decided to keep them going into the living room now since he’s doing them himself, which lessens the cost tremendously. We’ve also repainted our front deck and pulled up the horrible bushes that blocked its view (you can’t tell in the shot below, but I swear it’s true!). The front of our house is now like a breath of fresh air. Still a ways to go, but little by little…I LOVE sitting out there with Michael in the evenings when things have cooled off a bit and we’re in the mood to dream up new projects.

Here’s what the deck looked like before.

Maybe it’s all this home renovation, but lately I’m so drawn to all things domestic.

I’m in love with looking at design ideas and trying to make things warm and welcoming. On the flip side, this need to nest also frustrates me to death because a lack of funds, time and energy make most of what I conjure up or fall in love with inaccessible to my own life. Still…a girl can wander furniture stores, home supply and home decoration stores with little more than dreams, right?

My love of using these wonderfully warm summer months to create new things is not limited to home decoration. I’m also making my way into the kitchen thanks to inspiring Food Network shows (Cupcake Wars, anyone?). My mom and I recently spent a Saturday morning picking blueberries at a local patch. Two pounds of berries later, I have made a trifle, blueberry pancakes (or pankpanks, as my niece calls them!) and a fruit salad…have I mentioned how much I love summer?? Now that I’m out of blueberries, I’m going to try my hand at using yeast and baking the bread my mother-in-law is so famous for! Cross your fingers…

For now, check out a few of the things I’m loving right now:

So into hand painted furniture right now…

Image found: Furniture Fashion

Image found: Painted Furniture Online

…and English gardens….

Image found: Landscape Design Advisor

…and Martha Stewart-style parties that are more Bohemian…

Image found: Pinecone Camp

…and dreaming of where we’ll take our next international vacation…Costa Rica perhaps???

Image found: Guanamar Hotel

Image found: Guanamar Hotel

Ok, got to run…more later ๐Ÿ™‚

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bimini…

I recently had the privilege of running over to Bimini in the Bahamas with my uncle, aunt and cousins aboard their boat. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour trip from Ft. Lauderdale over, so not bad at all! We even dropped in some lines and caught six mahi (two got away) within about 20 minutes! Seriously good fishing out there for anyone who loves deep sea.

Unfortunately the weather kicked up a bit and we had to return to Florida after only one night, so I didn’t see much of the island, but what I did see definitely makes me want to return sometime!

Here are a few pictures, enjoy!


“series of doors”

I haven’t posted much about our trip to Italy yet and it’s coming, I promise. However, instead of posting some huge blog about anything and everything we experienced (a giant task for me and probably quite boring to you), I’ve decided to post little bits here and there. Hopefully, it might be a little more interesting that way, all around.

To begin, is a “series of doors” that Michael shot.

Our first day in Rome found us wandering through the most historic parts of the city.

Anyone watching the two of us would have found me looking down – into a book. I was continually reading about every little rock and post we passed (sometimes out loud to Michael, whether he was interested or not). I was trying not to miss anything I might have when I first visited during 2004. However, they would have seen Michael – looking up. He was drinking it all in…and he was holding the camera.

When I finally did tear my eyes away from the book-to-the-rock-to-the-post-and-back-to-the-book sequence I had down, I noticed Michael staring at doors. He told me that his sister-in-law, Stephanie, used to have pictures of doors in her apartment. He liked the idea that doors had the ability to sum up an entire view, an entire feeling, an entire structure. And if you’ve been to Rome, you know…they have doors. So, using our little point-and-shoot he tried to capture what we were experiencing. I only wish we had a better camera so the quality was greater.

These are for you Stephanie ๐Ÿ™‚

an entrance into what was the former Vatican at San Giovanni

an alley near the Colosseo

a gated entrance into Palatine Hill

an ancient door in the Roman Forum

near the Roman Forum

the famous bronze doors from Constantine's day in the portico at St. Peter's Basilica

a door found in the wall along the ancient Appian Way into Rome

positano…

Amazing Zara spring 07 fashions aside, this stunning dustjacket attic blog is completely captivating with photos by Carter Smith. The next time I go to Italy, I wanna go here!

Positano was on my shortlist for honeymoon destinations, unfortunately we got married at the beginning of the economic decline (prior to any reduction in travel expense, in other words, money was low and prices were high) and weren’t able to go. We did just make up for it with a 9-day trip to Rome last month, but I’m really hoping my next trip to Italy will be southern, sunny and sandy ๐Ÿ™‚

family-style cooking…

Unfortunately, I tend to worry. I also tend to be a people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely stand up for myself and I have my own opinions, but I generally want others to be happy…and I sometimes see it as my job to help them get there.
This is a problem on vacations when I feel like I need to bring something home to show family that I was thinking of them while I was away. I can spend a good chunk of time worried over finding a meaningful gift for each person that is within budget…it’s a difficult task…especially when you’re in Europe dealing with the added problem of a weak dollar.
In Rome I focused on enjoying myself during the first part of the week, but as our return flight edged closer I began to scope out gifts and panicked when I realized that budget, meaning and luggage space were definitely going colide in a way that made it immpossible for me to accomplish finding anything.
And then my genius husband came to my rescue.

After making several local Italian friends who schooled him on different areas of his native culture, he purchased three jars of a sauce called “Nduja” (it comes from the region his family originates in Italy) to share with his family at a big dinner some night upon our return. And then he called it a day. Ah, to be so uncomplicated.
I, on the other hand, still looked and worried and looked and worried over what I should get my family.ย Finally, he convinced me that I should do something similar with my family and we ended up purchasing a bottle of wine, a block of cheese and some chocolates.
This Sunday, I will be cooking an Italian family-style meal for my family and sharing all the goodies we brought home for them in a way that also allows us to share some stories and quality time.
Genius.

I have been looking over recipes trying to find the perfect Italian recipe to share…I think I’m going with homemade pesto pasta, since it was a favorite of mine over there.


Wish me luck…I’ve never made pesto before, but I believe I’m up to the challenge. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Here’s the recipe I’m thinking about using, in case anyone feels like trying it for themselves:

Ingredients
2 cups basil leaves
2 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Preparation
Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor; pulse 7 or 8 times or until mixture forms a smooth paste. Add cheese, broth, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined. Combine pesto and pasta in a large bowl, tossing to coat.

Oh, and by the way, the Naniamo bars were excellent!!

italian beauty…

We got back from Italy Monday night and still haven’t fully adjusted to all the time jumping, hence the reason I’m up drinking coffee and writing before 6 a.m. It will all even out soon, but I’m trying to make the most of these spare awake hours while I have them.
Before I post anything about the trip, or post our own pictures I have to get into the Italian fashion trends that were most prominent. I’m not sure you could even call them trends. Actually, I was looking for more of the “fashion average” so to speak. Not necessarily what the most daring among them was wearing, but the feature or fashion that most Italian women seemed to have in common.
I picked up on a few.
1) Well-tended eyebrows
Let’s face it, pretty much everyone looks better with eyebrows that are in check. Most Italian women must subscribe to that theory as well since almost all of them – young and old from all different areas of society – have perfectly tweezed eyebrows. I pointed this fact out to Michael and he mentioned that he had noticed it wasn’t just the women who tended to their eyebrows, many of the men also kept a tweezed brow in a way that didn’t necessarily look over done or even very noticeable, just well tended.


2) Boots
Boots are probably “in” anywhere the temperature falls below 50 degrees, but let’s face it…when you live in a country known for your fashion houses and leather production, you are probably a step beyond the average American town with a Payless or a Target. The boots these women wore were beautiful, in variations much further along than what the average Atlantan wears. There were over-the-knee (which I’ve wanted since I first saw them last spring, as many of you can attest!), ankle boots, strappy boots, heeled and flat in a range of colors that would be very at home inside of a rainbow.
Oh, how I wanted to splurge and buy the most beautiful pair of boots strolling along Via Condotti! But “champagne taste on a beer budget” just doesn’t work for us, unfortunately. I pointed out so many boots to Michael, he told me I should buy some…what a good husband. Although, I didn’t take his advise and our bank account is the better for it, even if my closet isn’t.


3)Wool leggings
Most leggings here in the south are made of nylon or cotton, which may have more to do with the mild winter (even though it doesn’t feel mild to me!) than any kind of fashion sense. But in Rome the leggings were so intricate and made of a heavier wool or cotton blend. I think this look is easily translateable since the Roman climate mirrors our own quite a bit.

4)Skinny or straight-leg jeans only!
I literally didn’t see one jeans-wearing person who wore anything other than these two slim-leg options. I’m not quite sure I’m ready to give up my bootcut during the summer months when a t-shirt, flip flops and a pair of great bootleg jeans make me feel very free and ruggedly American for some reason. But for the winter I’m pretty much with the Italians.


5)Dark eyes
Last but not least, the make-up….We’ve stared in wide eyed wonder at the easy sensuality of Italian women since film starlets like Sophia Loren graced our silver screens. But the thing I noticed is that most of the Italian women I saw – from the metro to Via Condotti and Via Cavour – kept a clean, bare-looking face, only highlighted with a swipe of smudgy eyeliner and mascara. Oh, there were exceptions to the rule and definitely other makeup trends, but pretty much across the board women didn’t leave home without their eyes lined. I’m not talking all smoky and glamorous, just a simple deeping of their eyes. It’s a sensual and mysterious look that dates back to Cleopatra, which is probably where the Romans got the idea in the first place. Because, let’s face it, who couldn’t benefit from feeling a tiny bit mysterious ๐Ÿ˜‰

looking forward toward adventure…

Well, hello! It’s been a while…

Since I’ve written last, we’ve seen another Christmas Eve, Christmas day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and the media blitz of “Winter Storm 2010” (pronounced “twenty-ten”) come and gone. And that’s not to mention all the little mundane things that truly make up the days of our lives…like overcoming a sickness or installing a toilet or mopping the floors. Because when we get right down to it…that’s what we’ve been doing in this house lately!

Anyway, we leave for Rome in exactly one month from today so I’m brushing up on my Italian travel knowledge and learning some bad words (thank you Chris Foster) that I’m sure won’t come in handy. My sister-in-law gave me a bunch of books and maps and a journal for Christmas so I’m already jotting down some must-sees and getting really excited! The last time I was in Rome was five years ago and it was only for a few days during a whirlwind tour of Europe. This time we’ll be there for nine whole days and I want to make the most of it!

Of course we’re going to hit the major sights like: Vatican City, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, the Roman Forums and the Imperial Forums. But I also want to make a point to see lesser known spots like: Catacombe di San Sabastiano, the Keats-Shelley House, Pincio Hill, Terme di Caracalla, Trastevere, Piazza Navona, and Villa Borghese. And if possible, I would love to take a day trip up to Florence (a favorite city of mine) and perhaps a day trip out to the coast (since I’ve never been), but we’ll see.

I’ve also thought it might be fun to rent a Vespa…calling to life all those “Roman Holiday” fantasies, and what girl doesn’t have them?…but then again, I’ve heard it’s like taking your life in your own hands. So I’m guessing that will also be a wait-and-see activity as well.

For now, I’m studying weather patterns, reading up on Italian history and gazing wistfully at pictures…soon, very soon…

the Spanish Steps

view of St. Peter's

Trevi Fountain at night

a typical street cafe