Spring Break!

In the middle of some Midwest snow, we jetted off to southern California for our spring break.  The thought of taking an almost two year old  on an airplane for 4 hours gave us hives, but the call of sunshine and grandparents was too much to overcome. 

In the end, the plane ride turned into 6 hours because of the airline computers completely crashing.  And he was a champ.  Whew. 

Things Carter loved about our vacation-

1) We discovered Carter’s love of picking fruit courtesy of my in-laws citrus trees.  He may have a future as a farmer.  Who picks things one at at time and then throws it at the recipient.Spring Break 13

Spring Break 13

2) Disneyland.  Specifically rides at Disneyland that had continuously moving lines.  Such as It’s a Small World.    Spring Break 13

The teacups were also amazing…but the pain and suffering of waiting in a line that stopped and did not move for an eternity, at least in toddler minutes, was almost not worth it. 

OK the video of the joy on his face while we spun would make anything worth it.  But at that moment, there may have been threatening of us leaving.Spring Break 13

And honestly he would have been happy riding the train all.day.long.

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3) The beach.  Spring Break 13

Oh the sand.  And the shells. 

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And the wine. 

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4)Travel Town.  Lots of trains-no further explanation needed. He takes his train riding very seriously.

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5) Swimming in his grandparents’ pool.  Oh the joy.

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6) Meeting Big Nonna.  And spending time with family. 

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That one is going on the mantel.

7)Goofing off and just playing.

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Spring Break 13

Spring Break 13

Things Carter did not like about vacation:

1)IKEA. 

Spring Break 13Sigh.  His expression in this picture is deceptively pleasant.  The whining and throwing of every toy (and phone) we gave him for entertainment was not captured.  And we thought we were raising him right to respect IKEA time.

My favorite part about vacation?  The sun.  And toddler naptimes by the pool without any guilt about what I should be doing. 

I was accidentally unplugged all week by way of forgetting my phone on the bathroom counter at home and remembering it halfway to the airport. After a mini freak out, I decided it would be nice to be free of it all week. And it was.  Even though I missed posting pictures on Instagram of the fun in the sun.

We all had a great time in the sun and with family.  All of anxiety about time changes and lack of naps was for nothing as he rolled with it. Carter did get very sick right after we got home. While it was snowing and my sunburn was fading under sweaters. 

Natural consequences of licking carousel horses at Disneyland.

Some Sun

We snuck off during spring break to California for some sun and family time.  Derek had a bad bout of H1N1 before we were supposed to leave that threatened our departure, but luckily he got well enough in time and I was able to leave the Lysol at home.  And the snow that fell the day we left.  Did I mention we were happy to leave?

Ahhhh San Diego…san diego trip

We were only there a short time but had lots of fun at the zoo.  And I set out on the mission of trying to snap some shots we could use in the nursery.  Now I just really need to sit down and figure out Photoshop.

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san diego trip

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san diego trip

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And we ate lots of great food.  Derek’s aunt and uncle drove down to take us to a restaurant on Coronado island with great city and bay views.san diego trip

Although I have to admit not being able to drink sucks a lot more when you are on vacation.  See a cool bar that normally you would’ve liked to try?  Or when the flight attendant gives you free drinks to make up kicking you out of your prime seat.  Or…..never mind.  Just trust me.

In spite of my pregnancy induced sober status, we still have a great time.  We then took the train to L.A. to see Derek’s mom, stepdad and brother. 

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The train was so much easier than renting a car and sitting in traffic. And for the first half of the trip we were literally right on the water.  The only negative was free wine, See above why that was considered a negative.

While we were in LA we of course had to make an IKEA trip.  I was hoping to find the perfect curtain fabric for the nursery.  While I did not see exactly what I wanted, we of course did not leave empty handed.

Cushion and pillow fabric-san diego trip

A light fixture that is hopefully somehow going to fit in the closest once we figure out how to assemble it-san diego trip

And miscellaneous toys and dog butt hooks-san diego trip

Luckily we did pack an extra duffel bag for all the IKEA goodies.

We also were lucky enough to have a baby shower while we were there and see Derek’s extended family.  Sadly, my camera sat in bag throughout the evening.  I did manage to snap this one though-

san diego trip My brother-in-law cooking bacon on the patio that morning because my mother-in-law did not want the smell in house for the shower. 

Classic.

Note to self to not to leave the camera away next time.

In the Book

Next up on the Christmas gift list involved a project with zero sewing.  Which was good in the while running out of time scheme of things.

I may have mentioned that we went to Italy this summer.  And that we took tons of pictures.  But at the sake of not covering every wall with vacation photos, I needed to find another way to easily display them without becoming overwhelming.  Enter Derek’s gift….the photo book.

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Just like Mrs. Limestone, I used blurb.com for the book and I love how it all came out.  All professional looking (well in my humble opinion at least).

D's christmas present

Blurb has lots of options for how you want to put together the book and I decided to download their program because it gave me the most control.  I went with the upgraded paper which has a slight sheen to it….especially when you are trying to photograph it.  So in person the colors are so vivid.  Promise.

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Originally I thought about narrating the pictures and adding words all over the place.  But then I nixed the idea and let the pictures speak for themselves.  I could fit a whole lot more pictures that way. And it took a whole lot less time thinking of witty things to say about each picture.  Sorry honey.

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I tried to vary my layouts (which was super easy to do with the program).

D's christmas present

Derek loved it and now all of Italy memories are easily accessible on the side table in the living room.

So all I need to enjoy it is a glass of red wine.  But remember it was a gift for Derek of course….

Disclaimer: Blurb has no idea who I am (other than my order number) and had nothing to do with my post.  I just wanted to share how much I loved their product with all of you.  I think more photo books are in my future.

Roma

I have gotten a little side-tracked with the final recap of our Italy trip.  We went to Florence and then the Cinque Terre….and then got sidetracked with other things.  But I forgot Rome.  The third and final stop of our trip. 

We arrived by train from the Cinque Terre and took a taxi to our apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood.  Which was a less touristy portion of Rome. 

Our apartment was the smaller green door right at street level-

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And then this street was our home base-

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We had amazing pizza that night and then woke up the next morning to walk to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

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It was amazing to think about the history and just how old it was.  And made me want to see the Gladiator again.  And again it was sweltering but by this point we were used to it.  Well as used to it as you can be.

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The Pantheon was also awe inspiring.  And it was a free which was bonus.

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In case you were wondering what the “crowds of summer” look like in Italy….this was the scene at the Trevi fountain.  Needless to say we did not throw a coin.  I wonder how many pickpockets were in that crowd….

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Just walking around the city was gorgeous.

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But the most amazing part of Rome had to be the Vatican.

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Finding the entrance to the Vatican museum turned out to be slightly difficult…good thing I had my navigator with me.  We should have just looked for the ginormous line of people waiting in the sweltering heat.  The extra Euros we spent on a entrance time were priceless.  In case you are questioning the pants choice when it was 110 outside….St. Peter’s has a strict dress code…..no knees and no shoulders.

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The Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel were amazing….but we followed the rules unlike some people in there and did not snap any photos.

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And the size of St. Peter’s Basilica alone was jaw-dropping. 

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We climbed the dome and got a chance to see the tiny mosaic pieces that made up the artwork up close.

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We also attended mass there since it was a once in a lifetime experience.  Unfortunately some people that were in attendance were not very respectful and the constant taking of photos and video while walking up and down the aisle was incredibly distracting.  I am not a person that likes confrontation, but if we spoke the same language I probably would have said something.

Buy anyway the extra Euros for the dome climb was also worth it.

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The climb to the very top was long, tiring, hot, smelly and not for the claustrophobic….but oh so worth it for the views and the breeze.

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The final day we had in Rome we had plans to hit two more museums before packing up and heading home.  But when I woke up not feeling well, we decided not to push it and that after two weeks we were museumed out anyway.  So we spent the day in our little neighborhood and had a great time.  Then after eating more amazing pizza we went to bed before our incredibly long travel day back to the states. 

And as always if these pictures were not enough stop over here because of course I have tons more!

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Cinque Terre

Now the part of the trip that everyone has been waiting for….the Cinque Terre.

I was gorgeous and relaxing and the perfect way to split up sight seeing in Florence and Rome.  You are feeling stressed and hot on the train wondering how much longer you are going to be in tunnels and then suddenly you come out and all there is blue water and sunshine.  Sigh.

Anyway if you are not familiar with the Cinque Terre, it five small towns on the coast of Italy that are connected by hiking trails and the train.  We stayed in Vernazza and it was perfect.

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The Cinque Terre does not have many hotels because the towns are so tiny, and most people rent private rooms.  We rented from Maria Capellini and her husband Giaccomo.  Our room was in the yellow building right on the square. They were the sweetest couple and made us feel so at home the two nights we were there.

We arrived on a Sunday (when I snapped most of these pics) and so it looks a lot more crowded than it was on Monday.

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We arrived in the afternoon and of course it was hot, so we grabbed our suits, ate lunch on the harbor, drank some Italian beer and went to the beach.  Heavenly.

That night we probably had our best meal of our entire vacation.  The seafood was amazing as well as the views of the Mediterranean.  Of course this was the dinner that I decided “let’s not be a tourist and bring the giant camera bag with us to dinner…just slip the little one into your pocket”  So this is the only picture of the meal we have….Derek’s first course.  Amazing (and under 10 euro).  My seafood spaghetti and sea bass encrusted in sea salt was the best fish I have ever had.  And the Cinque Terre wine was delicious as well.

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Vernazza at night-

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The next day was the hike.  We decided to take the first train out to start by 7:30 and try to beat the heat.  Also the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza was supposed to be the most physically strenuous so we wanted to start with that.

Monterosso is the morning was deserted but gorgeous.

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Then we started the hike.  Let’s just say the first leg was a little more physically demanding than we expected.  It was very steep and the whole “let’s try to beat the heat” thing…well that did not really work out.  I am not a sweater and my shirt was soaked within in the first half hour.  I consider us to be in reasonably good shape (I run three days a week) and honestly this first trail kicked our butts. 

At this point the blog actually came up.

J: You know Emily from Imperfect?

D; One of your blog friends?

J:Yes (gasping for breath)…she did this hike at the end of her second trimester.  It was not 105, but she still did it successfully.  So if we can’t do it we are total wimps.

So everyone needs to tell Emily what a rock star she is.

Anyway we ended up completing the hike and it was so worth it for the views and after the first leg it was much easier.  The last leg was so flat that it was paved.  But in some ways I liked the first leg the best as Derek and I were the only ones there and was very peaceful.  But enough talking…here are the pictures-

Monterosso after we started hiking into the hills-

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Our first glimpse of Vernazza-

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Coming into Vernazza-

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After going through Vernazza, we came to Corniglia-

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The views were amazing

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And the water was so blue

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The town of Manarola-

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Finally to the paved part.  No pics of me will make the blog because at this point I looked just a tad sweaty.  A lot of women were wearing just their bras to hike in.  Not swimsuit tops or sports bras…just regular bras.  Not sure if that is a European thing, or I am so hot that I don’t care and I will never see these people again thing.

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Anyway we stopped in the final town Riomaggiore for a late lunch and more Italian beer.  Then we hopped the train back to Vernazza and went back to the beach for our last afternoon in the Cinque Terre before heading for Rome in the morning.  I took at lot more pics and if you would like to see more go here.  Hope you enjoyed seeing the Cinque Terre as much as we enjoyed relaxing there!

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Florence

I could write a month’s worth of posts on our Italy vacation….but don’t worry I won’t bore you that much.  Instead I am thinking on doing three posts since we went to three different locales and then a final post on packing and planning and stuff because while most of you do not care, I loved the Europe packing list one of my old favorite design blogs, Decorno.
And no I am not a genius and figured out photoshop in a day….I decided that I will worry about that for pictures we decided to hang around the house and not for the blog.   Much less stress.
So anyway-Florence.  We arrived in Florence with some major jetlag and an entire day in front of us.  We did a jetlag no-no and took an hour nap and honestly it was the best decision for us. And then we opened up some wine.IMG_1238
Our entire trip we decided to stay in apartments rather than hotels and since we were going to be in Florence for a week, we got one with amazing views and a great terrace.  Our apartment was not large, but it had a kitchen and the property management company we worked with, Italy Perfect was great.  Highly recommend them.
See that red circle in the picture….that is our bedroom with 360 degree views.  The Ponte Vecchio is in the center and the Uffizi Gallery is the tan building to the right.IMG_1234circle So we had views like this-IMG_1669
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And of course we loved the terrace.  We ate out there many evenings.IMG_1446
And we loved Florence.  
The Duomo-IMG_1288
The ceiling of the Baptistery across from the Duomo.IMG_1292
Just strolling around was fun….IMG_1649
And Piazelle Michelangelo was the perfect place to spend a sunset picnic-IMG_1751
We had views-IMG_1730
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And Mexican beer.  I swear we drank Italian beer the rest of the trip when we were drinking beer which was actually quite good.  But after sweating all day and roasting your buns sitting on hot stone steps a Corona from the street vendor was perfect.
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Since we were in Florence for a week, we took a couple of day trips.  One of these was on a wine tour through the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  Our first plan was to rent a car and do this on our own.  But after researching fun things like insurance we decided to join a tour instead.  Best.decision.ever.  We went on a tour with eight other people and given by the Tuscan Wine Society.  Rebecca was an amazing tour guide (and she has a blog).  We learned a whole lot about wine.  We loved this tour and had a great time so make sure you check it out if you are going to be in Florence.  We started at 9:30 and did tastings at three wineries.  At the first winery we got a full tour which was very interesting.
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And then of course the wine-
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We had a delicious lunch prepared at the second winery before heading to the third for some more wine.  Derek learned he is not a grappa fan at lunch.  We also stopped in so cute Tuscan hill towns in between.
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Sadly US customs only allows a liter of alcohol per person through customs so we could not bring that much back with us.  But happily both bottles made it home in one piece and are waiting to be enjoyed for a special occasion.
On our last day in Florence we planned on taking a day trip to Siena.  At to this point we had a relatively smooth trip.  All flights were on time, had successfully navigated the city, found grocery stores and restaurants etc. 
Then we got on the slow bus to Siena.  Which I thought would not be that bad because it is a little more time on the bus…but oh well.  Except the A/C an the bus was not working…..and the bus was very full of people…and it was 102 outside….and the windows did not open….for 2.5 hours.   So when we finally got to Siena we were not in the best shape.  And then as were we trying to find some water, I realized that I had forgotten the guide book on the bus.  NOOOOO!  So we had no map and not really an idea of the plan.  Luckily we were leaving the next day for the Cinque Terre which was in a new guidebook safe in the apartment so it was not that bad.  So we were without my security blanket but ultimately had great time in Siena. 
Even though it was the hottest day all week.  But we did get on the correct bus on the way home.
The town square where the famous horse race is held….sadly we missed it by a weekend.IMG_1841
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The next day we got up early for our train to the Cinque Terre which was amazing….and in a new post.  If you want to see more pics or videos, go to  my flickr page here (or click “my photos” at the top).  I did not include details about everything we did and did not do because most museums did not allow pictures and I did not want to bore people.  (David was amazing though.) But if you interested shoot me an email.  We are planners and that means spreadsheets.  Ciao!
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We’ re Baaa-aaaaack

We just got back from Italy where we have been sipping wine, sight-seeing  and sweating the past two weeks.    We had an amazing time and I can’t wait to share all the details with you.  But right now jet lag, laundry and editing 1543 pictures is standing in the way.  Not to mention my google reader that contains two weeks of blog posts to catch up on.  That probably will take an entire day by itself.

We had no internet and very limited cell phone over there which in some ways was nice as it really showed us how much time we waste every day doing nothing.  But it was weird not to be able to check the weather (hot) or have any other English TV channel other than Fox News.  So if Fox was not reporting it in the last two weeks, we know nothing about it.

The waiter at the sports bar in Charlotte where we had a couple hour layover after our 11 hour flight from Rome must have thought we had a very non-communicative marriage.  We immediately sat down, ordered cold drinks and whipped out our phones and really did not speak much for the next hour or so. 

Here is a couple unedited pics while I try to get back in the swing of things-

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View of Florence from our apartment bedroom

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Overlooking Tuscany

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View of Vernazza from the hiking trail

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Our neighborhood in Rome

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Italy Here We Come (in 5 months anyway)

The flights are booked.  Deposits have been made on the apartments.  It's official: we are spending two weeks in Italy this summer.  And while I promise not to be blogging about our upcoming vacation constantly, I did want to share some pics like I promised and then shut up about it.

Anyway... we splurged a little bit on amazing views on the apartment in Florence in order to be enjoying these for an entire week.






 
 
 

Yep those were all taken from some area in the apartment. Can. not. wait.

Our apartment in Rome is much less spectacular but in a good location.



And while I wish this was from the terrace, it is actually taken from a spot close to where we will be staying.


We went the apartment route in the hopes of being able to prepare some of our meals and in the process save some euros.  And to have the experience of shopping in an Italian market.  The website we used to book them was Italy Perfect.  They have had great reviews on TripAdvisor and the BBB.  And they have been very responsive so far to my husband's million questions and emails/phone calls.  They have a lot of great properties in multiple price ranges and for different numbers of people.

Our hotel in Cinque Terre is not booked as of yet.....but I also wanted to share these gorgeous pictures.  Hopefully the couple of days we spend here will be relaxing and full of hiking.







I loved all your comments and suggestions from my previous post on Italy and places to see.  Keep 'em coming!  And now I promise to stop being the girl that keeps talking about her vacation....well until June at least.
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