Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mediterranean Vacation {Bari, Italy}

Leaving Venice, we sailed overnight to the heel and a cute little city called Bari.  Some of the cruise websites we read before leaving the states said that it was kind of a throwaway port, and why didn't Costa stop at one of the beaches further south.  We found Bari charming, and once off the beaten path, soon discovered it had a winding, crowded, graffiti-plastered, southern Italian vibe all its own.

The Via Venezia was worth the walk - even though it was overcast, we had a great view of the harbor and it was nice to see vibrant plants still blooming.
The Basilica de San Nicola is the big draw in Bari - apparently Saint Nicholas himself is buried here.  The church has a strong Byzantine look to it, and the tombs are ornately lit and quite beautiful. 

  Un caffe?  Un Euro.  And sooo, so good.  Suitably fortified, we journeyed on.

 Hanging laundry in Bari seemed to be a strange art.  Open space amongst the crowded buildings was a commodity, and people got extremely creative with where (and what) they aired out.

True Story.

all photos, ours

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friendly Friday 12.21.12

I didn't eat the snows, mommy.  I don't know what you're talking about.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Cheer

Since I shop for Christmas gifts throughout the year, I ususally miss out on the harried, breathless, merry gift-buying rush.  I used to love to go the the mall at Christmas (back in grad school, when I actually lived NEAR a mall) and just take it all in.  For an avid shopper like myself, it was bliss.  Holiday decor!  Christmas music! Discounts!

This year, however, shopping and malls and all things shiny and commercial became small and unimportant. In the wake of recent events, simpler, homier activities, (especially those involving plenty of snuggles with little ones) seemed in order.  Over the weekend, Ollie-dog and I tackled wreath-making and later we made gingerbread houses (yes, from scratch) with my nieces and nephews. It turned out to be a warm, cozy day, filled with love and kisses and small stockinged feet sliding up and down the hardwood floor after the dog -  perfect, and a lovely deep breath in the midst of incredible sadness.

Sorry for the horrible lighting - my kitchen is a little lacking in the illumination department.  To gather greenery, I just went out into the yard (one of the perks of living in rural Maine) and cut from fir and pine trees as well as my holly in the front garden.  I also gathered up bits of rhododendron Ollie had broken off during his romps around the yard.   Since I wasn't sure how it would look, I decided to do a '2-pass' approach (highly technical wreath-making term there...) instead of the more traditional 'take-a-bunch-and-wire-it-on'.  That way if it looked like crap, I could dissassemble easily.

Ollie approves, or thinks it is a snack.  

 Two passes did the trick.


Aaaand...on to the main event.  Having never made gingerbread before I had no idea how good it would make the house smell...

There may have been some structural integrity issues...nothing mass quantities of runny royal icing couldn't hide.  And they tasted really good!  


all photos, mine

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shopping With a List - Foreverhouse Kitchen

In some ways, I am glad that life is making us save up for the Foreverhouse.  Had we been able to build a couple years ago, (or even earlier this year), I probably would've had a white-cabinet-ed shabby chic farmhouse kitchen.  Or maybe even a yellow-cabinet-ed kitchen with bright accessories. (I always seem to think warm colors will make me feel warm.  Unless I build a fireplace into my kitchen and paint it yellow, I think that fairly unlikely...)

Lately, however, I've been wondering about the Long Haul.  If this is truly going to be a house where we can cosy in for a bit, I would prefer that it not scream "Pinterest Board Gone Wild!"

Which has me thinking about grey as a color.  Sarah Richardson did it in the most recent season of Sarah's House...


...but it is still a little too...cold, or adult or professional or something.  For me, at least.  Maybe it is the stainless steel.  I think the color is good. Neutral, moody, and not beige.

So here's what I'd do if we were to win the Lotto and build today:


It's fun and bright and includes a TON of grey.  Check it out...

Plus, it's outdoor fabric, which mean 100% poly - perfect for kitchen stools that can get messy.  I also like that it has my favorite green and a nice, light neutral.  

As it happened, I was browsing House of Fraser (one of my favorite UK department stores) online, and found some quirky cute housewares that matched my theme perfectly.  And they ship to the US. 

Then I wandered over to Decor, and spent about half an hour in the lighting section.  If you mouse over the images, they light up! It's like walking really fast back and forth in front of the light display at the home store...not that I've ever done that... (Please excuse the geek-out, but this is the first time I've seen such a feature online!)

What do you think?  Grey, green and orange?  Is it sophisticated meets playful, or just weird?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mediterranean Vacation, Part 1

It all began soon after we returned from New Zealand. Freshly bitten by the travel bug,  we wanted to plan our next vacation ASAP.  Since we were broke, and had a mortgage, winter heating bills, and student loans (still!) to pay, we looked for the Cheapest Possible Option that was not Canada. 

"What about an all-inclusive or a cruise?" I said, thinking we could cut down on food costs and still see some sights, maybe in the Caribbean somewhere.
"What about that cruise line that sank?  They should be pretty cheap right now..." mused my husband.
Thinking he was kidding, I checked it out anyhow and lo and behold, they were.  Extremely. A couple days later we found ourselves booked in a cheapie interior cabin on a week-long Costa cruise, bookended with some time in beautiful Italia.

We flew Aer Lingus into Dublin and then onto Rome.  It was a beautiful day to fly over Europe, and we had an amazing view of the Alps.

Travelling was hard.  We drove 8 hours to JFK, then flew to Rome, and then got on a train.  By the time we arrived in Venice, we were exhausted and ready to crash.
Stepping out onto the steps of the Santa Lucia station, we forgot we were dirty and hungry and tired and in sore need of a cocktail.  It was magic, and we couldn't stop smiling. The sea air smelled warm and heavy, the canals were lit with sparkling lights, and people everywhere seemed to be in a festive mood.  I highly recommend seeing Venice for the first time at night. 

Our lodging for the night was Hotel Dalla Mora , a short walk from the train station, and a great choice - extremely helpful and friendly staff!  We quickly learned that a wrong turn in Venice can be a costly error, especially if there are no bridges readily available.  We spent a good 10 minutes standing across the canal from the hotel (see where the people are standing below?), wondering how the hell we were supposed to get over there. 


Our host recommended Casin dei Nobili for dinner, so after a quick shower and change of clothes, we made our way down into the Sestiere Dorsoduro.  It was not fancy, a little touristy, but the food was hot and the wine was good.  



The following day we had a little bit of time before we had to board the ship, so we wandered around, walking through the rain to the Punta Della Dogana, where we had great views of both St. Mark's and San Giorgio. 

Then back across the Accademia (beautiful, even in the rain)... St.  Mark's Square.  We were hopeful it would be dry when we returned from the cruise so we could enjoy an overpriced cappuccino and people-watch in one of the cafes.

The nice thing about the rain is that it makes a great excuse to go shopping.  

 Leaving Venice that night, the rain lifted and we leaned over the observation deck with our cameras, all giddy and googly-eyed.  It could have been very romantic, but we geeked out and filmed the whole thing instead. 

(yes, that's an H&M ad...)

We LOVED Venice, and were super-stoked we got to spend more time there on our return.

all photos, ours

Friday, December 7, 2012

Swingin' Seventies Kitchen Remodel, Part V

I'm back.  Kind of.  My beloved MacBook is dead, dead, dead, as the coffee ruined the motherboard. (This whole scene reminds me of that Sex and the City episode where Carrie's computer crashes and she hasn't backed up and Aidan does the ctrl-alt-delete and she gets the 'mean little mac man'.)  I'm sad, and although it's hard to be angry at the dog, I've done a better job of training lately (as in, don't jump up on things to grab used tissues because you think they are COOL and TASTY - ew...)

The kitchen is nearly there - it has been a much longer process than we had expected, but I suppose that happens when you leave the country in the midst of a reno.

Recapping...while we were away, my dad installed the freshly painted cabinets and put on the new hardware.  

The weekend we returned, I went over and Dad and I tiled the backsplash. Since the local HD didn't have 3x6 bullnose tiles, we cut down the 6x6 ones that were in stock. This meant we lost the built-in spacers and had to...improvise.

I have this tendency to get Really Excited about tiling (as I've mentioned before), and have to remind myself not to put up too much thinset, especially in areas where tiling gets slow because of cuts (like below). As it was, we had to re-set a few tiles the next day.

It is amazing how polished the whole thing looks with just a few dollars worth of tiles (I think we spent $40).

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